The Pope's ExorcistOverview -
Starring Russel Crowe, The Pope's Exorcist casts out tone and horror surprises. Instead of jump scares and body distortion, this film relies on psychological horror keeping things grounded rather than providing action beats every few minutes. The result is something special with a fantastic performance from Crowe. This 1080p HD transfer looks stunning in the darkness and the DTS-HD 5.1 audio mis sounds even better. Bonus content is lacking with only two short features, none of which are informative or fun. Ultimately, the film is Recommended!
Inspired by the actual files of Father Gabriele Amorth, Chief Exorcist of the Vatican (Academy Award®-winner Russell Crowe; 2000, Best Actor, Gladiator), The Pope’s Exorcist follows Amorth as he investigates a young boy’s terrifying possession and ends up uncovering a centuries-old conspiracy the Vatican has desperately tried to keep hidden.
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Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
The number of demonic possession films is staggering these days. Ever since The Exorcist was released in theaters in 1973, many filmmakers have tried to capitalize on both the financial and critical success it conjured up fifty years ago. Some have stood the test of time and others haven't. One thing is for sure though, the recent possession movies were more related to showcasing jump scares and strange body movements for cheap audience reactions. While some of those work, most are immediately forgotten with a laugh and an eye roll. This is not the case with The Pope's Exorcist, which takes its cues from the original Exorcist film in terms of its tone and grounded character work.
Like The Exorcist, this particular movie draws from real experiences, particularly a real-life Catholic priest named Father Gabriele Amorth who was the Chief Exorcist of the Vatican. Russell Crowe plays the role of Amorth with such class and vigor during those climactic moments that it proves that Crowe has not lost one step in his perfected craft over the years. This priest is a charismatic man who must save a young boy who is possessed and is being hidden from the church to prevent mass hysteria.
Again, The Pope's Exorcist doesn't mess about with a possessed person climbing the walls like an insect or contorting their bodies into unnatural positions. This focuses more on the back and forth between the human and the demon, while each sits down and verbally fights trying to outsmart the other. Being a demon though, allows for certain hidden truths to appear within Amorth and the boy's family, which ultimately try and tear a banded team of God from completing the exorcism - something that was shown in the original Exorcist. These scenes are terrifyingly brutal and breathtaking all at the same time.
For horror fans though, The Pope's Exorcist is a breath of fresh air where jump scares and those usual suspected elements don't creep up to bring the film to a downgraded action romp. This is character driven with some elements of horror to keep things on pace. Crowe is delightful and the psychological horror of his relationship to this demon and to the church is poignant and relates to how the church might act today if something of this caliber were to go down. It's a horrifying story, one that is true that the filmmakers kept their class telling it correctly without all the hoopla of a modern-day action horror flick. It's grounded and scary and should satisfy those horror buffs out there.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Pope's Exorcist possesses its way to Blu-ray + Digital Code via Screen Gems and Sony. The sole disc is housed inside a hard blue plastic case with a cardboard sleeve. There is an insert for a digital code too. The artwork features Crowe in priest clothes entering a room full of demonic statues and skeletons. It's not the best-looking art, but it's not the worst either.
The Pope's Exorcist exercises its way to a 1080p HD transfer that looks wonderful in its levels of darkness. This is a gritty, horror movie about possession where there isn't a ton of sunshine or beautiful rainbows. Rather, this film is steeped in low light sequences and heavy colorized filters to keep with its own haunting aesthetics.
The color palette takes place in dark rooms and hallways so filtered greens and low-lit ambers for specific lighting dominate the cinematic space. The primary colors look decayed and muted mostly with some darker blue and green hues in the background. All of this is a stylized effort to make the story and tone feel terrifying and to keep it within its horror roots. Black levels are inky and the skin tones are softer than natural looking. Again, this is by choice and not because of a transfer problem. This color palette allows for the terror of the story to take effect.
The detail is vivid and sharp with closeups that reveal facial pores, individual hairs on faces and heads, along with beads of sweat, blood, and those practical and CGI effects when a possession or demonic vision has taken over. Textures in costumes also reveal their detail in the darker sequences just fine. There are no major issues with aliasing or banding either. This isn't a particularly bright and sunny image, but for a dark horror film, it gets the job done just right.
This release comes with a vibrant DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix that terrorizes the speaker system. The sound effects of those ghastly and demonic growls and noises are top-notch that doesn't only come through the front speakers, but also the surroundings creating an immersive soundscape. Other sounds of being possessed, bed sheets rustling, and other haunting noises are pitch-perfect. Ambient sounds come through those rear speakers prominently as well. The score always adds to the horror tone of it all and the dialogue is clean, clear, and easy to follow. The bigger sound devices take place during the action-set pieces when Crowe is casting out the evil, which is where the low end of the bass kicks in at its highest without crossing into rocky territory.
There are only 12 minutes of bonus materials here, both of which are short EPK features that cover certain elements of the movie. There should be more fun extras on this disc.
- Introducing Father Amorth (HD, 7 Mins.) - The cast and crew discuss the real-life guy who inspired the movie and the effort they all took to correctly tell his story.
- What Possessed You? (HD, 5 Mins.) - A short explanation from the cast and crew of their research and willingness to do something original in the horror genre.
The Pope's Exorcist starring Russell Crowe is a surprisingly great grounded horror film where it relies on the character development and psychological horror of the narrative rather than jump scares. The 1080p HD image looks great in its low light filters and the DTS-HD 5.1 audio sounds amazing. There are only two short extras that act as EPK material about certain elements of the film. Recommended!
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