Thursday, August 24, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

The Pope’s Exorcist

‘The Pope’s Exorcist’ deploys the tactful horror foreword of “inspired by.” Julius Avery’s film is “inspired by” actual files. It is “inspired by” a centuries-old conspiracy that the Vatican is trying to keep hidden. And that “inspired” gives it wiggle room, and, probably, is why it works.

Turning the real-life figure of the late Father Gabriele Amorth, an exorcist of the Diocese of Rome, into Russel Crowe, Avery’s film has a lot to contend with off the bat. First: the greatest exorcism film ever made already exists: The Exorcist (the real possessive demon haunting every attempted exorcism movie since 1973).

And second: exorcism is an oft-treaded track; it’s nothing new. The film is contending with a whole host of art that’s delved the topic and even a recent oversaturation.

It’s ground so pilfered that mathematic theory has even had a swing at it. There’s a formula for performing an exorcism: Vade Retro Satana, or “Begone Satan”. But I prefer the more modern expression of it - “Back off, Satan”, which, to me, comes across as bit of light teasing; sort of a ‘stop-it-you’ type expression. You might say it to your annoying cousin, perhaps.

The origins of “casting out” demons are somewhere between the early pages of the Book of Mark and when the Apostle to the Apostles, Mary Magdalene, had seven devils driven out of her by Jesus. If the Bible and William Friedkin have already done exorcism so well, what hope does Avery have?

How do you differentiate yourself in a demon-soaked world? Well, let’s take the truth and play a little creative license.

Taking Father Amorth’s real-life character – a man famously jovial, despite his profession – Crowe and Avery instead turning him into a laconic and melodramatic version of himself. And the Oscar-winner makes it work.

And his performance is helped by what is undoubtedly a gorgeous film. Avery and cinematographer Khalid Mohtaseb put to screen a filmic version of Goya’s ‘St. Francis Borgia’s Helping a Dying Impenitent.’

Crowe and the dark, infernal, and diaphanous quality of filmmaking make it stand out more than it deserves. They elevate a standard horror fare into something worth watching. You won’t be surprised by it, but you’ll be glued to the screen.

The Pope’s Exorcist is playing at the Proserpine Entertainment Centre next month.

The Pope’s Exorcist is a “filmic version of Goya’s ‘St. Francis Borgia’s Helping a Dying Impenitent’” in terms of its gorgeous cinematography

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