The relationship between humans and supernatural entities has long been a topic of interest for cultural figures. Discussions of God and the Devil hold a prominent place in pop culture, despite there being little new to add to the conversation in film. “The Vatican Exorcist” revisits the familiar theme of exorcism, but attempts to infuse intrigue within the Vatican to offset the horror elements. In the following review, we’ll delve into whether this approach succeeded.
Director: Julius Avery
Starring: Russell Crowe, Daniel Zovatto, Alex Essoe, Ralph Ineson, Franco Nero
Year of release: 2023
The plot of the film revolves around Vatican priest Gabriel Amorth (Russell Crowe), who is the chief exorcist of the Vatican and specializes in expelling evil spirits. Over the years, Gabriel has seen the devil in people in strange manifestations. But one situation left a lasting impression on him and inspired the film.
The creators of “The Vatican Exorcist” position the film as based on real events and the books and memories of the real priest Gabriel Amorth. He claimed to have helped thousands of people get rid of the devil and knew everything about exorcism. Of course, the truth of his words is not confirmed by anything, but Amorth gained popularity.
Against this backdrop, an interesting psychological thriller could be filmed, where exorcism would be intertwined with deception and, more importantly, self-deception. The film could delve deeper into the backstage of the Vatican, which is in itself a separate world. But the director Julius Avery chose the simplest answers to far from the most difficult questions. Therefore, “The Vatican Exorcist” is an extremely primitive horror film in which everything develops along long-established paths. The devil here is just the devil, not some human fiction.
To be honest, it’s getting a bit tiresome to write about almost every modern horror film and how it’s not scary. But in terms of horror elements, “The Vatican Exorcist” is so primitive that there’s no desire to use any new definitions for it. The jump scares are built in a completely uninteresting way, and the film can’t offer anything more than a horror experience.
But then why watch it? At the very least, for Russell Crowe’s excellent acting. It’s always enjoyable to watch a local priest who is also scared of the supernatural events happening around him. Moreover, Father Amorth can crack a good joke and show sincere warmth towards strangers.
Also, “The Vatican Exorcist” showcases the culture of the Vatican quite well. While the film doesn’t delve into any real revelations, everything looks highly textured and authentic. The conversations between the priests and the common people emphasize the differences in beliefs and individualism of divine influence.
And at the moment when the film isn’t trying to scare you, it really draws you in. Yes, it’s not the most interesting film in the world, but it allows you to touch the closed world of the Vatican, full of its own laws. Similar feelings were once given to viewers by “The Da Vinci Code”, which also remained a controversial work in the public eye.
If the adaptation of Dan Brown’s book was spoiled by an inconsistent structure that distracts from the search for answers to the mysteries of human history, then in “The Vatican Exorcist” all the magic is ruined by the appearance of another demonic entity on the screen. The attempts to scare in the film are very strained, but it could still be endured if they supplemented the main ideas. Instead, each jump scare is like a loud, disconnected cry that interrupts an otherwise interesting narrative.
“The Vatican Exorcist” brilliantly demonstrates one of the main problems of the modern film industry. Numerous directors and companies seem to not understand at all what people love about horror movies. After all, it’s not about creepy sounds or strange creatures on the screen. Every great horror movie has been, is, and always will be about confronting the unknown. Essentially, they are very unique puzzles that have no answer – and that’s what makes them so appealing.
“The Vatican Exorcist” is a mystery that nobody really wants to solve. Furthermore, there is no real mystery here to begin with. So, why try to turn the movie into a horror film instead of focusing solely on the aesthetics of the Vatican – that is a big question.
Pros: Excellent acting by Russell Crowe, who portrays a somewhat simple yet attractive character on screen; the atmosphere of tradition and laws of the Vatican that captivates; overall, a well-structured narrative.
Cons: As a horror film, it absolutely fails to scare; some dullness and prolonged story-telling; indistinctness of all characters, except the main hero.
Conclusion: To perceive “The Vatican Exorcist” as a horror film would ruin your experience even before the movie starts. There is no fear here. Instead, there is a wonderful Vatican and Russell Crowe – and that is already enough for a good evening at the cinema.