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‘The Pope’s Exorcist’ is a silly teaser for spooky season
It’s been hanging out in Netflix’s Top 10 for a couple weeks now.
It’s rare during a Netflix scroll that I finally put something on, against my better judgment, and end up digging it. That happened this weekend with The Pope’s Exorcist, a movie that did OK at the box office back in April, but not that well with critics. And yet, it’s been hanging out in Netflix’s Top 10 for a couple weeks now.
Russell Crowe stars as the titular exorcist, and plays a real person: Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican’s head exorcist, who claimed to have performed more than 50,000 exorcisms in a 30-year period. Though, as he notes in the 1987-set film, the majority of alleged possessions were mental health episodes.
While Crowe’s Italian accent is unfortunately not that far from his Thor: Love and Thunder one, he gives Amorth some vampy comic energy, and shots of him zooming around Europe on a Vespa—at one point to a Faith No More song—have become a meme (and part of a drinking game).
A child (Peter DeSouza-Feighoney) is possessed by an ancient demon after exploring the dusty basement of his creepy new home unsupervised, and the fact that his American family—rounded out by Alex Essoe and Laurel Marsden—is moving into a Spanish abbey that barely looks to have electricity or running water is not really commented on. However, the Spanish Inquisition is definitely commented on.
Crowe is the standout here, and the demon that possesses the boy, voiced in part by Ralph Ineson, is kind of cunty, so seeing it face off against Crowe is entertaining. The possession and exorcism genre is pretty well exhausted, though there have been exceptions—like 2010’s The Last Exorcism, which messed with the rules of the exorcism and found footage genres. The Pope’s Exorcist tries to give the genre some levity, before pivoting into an action movie in the last half, as it tries to explain the lore.
Before the film came out, the International Association of Exorcists called it “pretentious,” which really should have been its selling point. A sequel to The Pope’s Exorcist was set before its Netflix bump, and while the MCU and DCEU have warped people into thinking everything should be a franchise, a Pope’s Exorcist cinematic universe might actually work.
Why it matters
When The Pope’s Exorcist first debuted in mid-August, it beat out Heart of Stone, Netflix’s latest original action film, in the Top 10. But that might be because the streamer did little to no promo for the Gal Gadot movie.
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