The Pope’s Exorcist

An American single-mother family renovating the Spanish abbey they inherited calls in the parish priest when the young son begins to act as though possessed. But the local padre proves woefully weak against this powerful demon, so the church turns to Father Gabriele Amorth (real guy), a seasoned exorcist who answers only to Il Papa. But (spoiler!) the kid was just bait, and gaining access to the Vatican (heh-heh) is all part of the demon’s plan.

This is oft-trodden ground, and the film would sink without a trace were it not for Russell Crowe’s contribution (spouting a questionable Italian accent) in the title role. The Oscar-winning actor has been slumming of late, and while no one would call this anything but a B-movie, he injects into this self-serious horror drama some much-needed goofy humor along with his signature gravitas. His arrival in Spain, black robes flying, on a Vespa (from Rome!) is the money shot.

Fans of exorcism films (does such a demographic even exist?) could do worse: dead-looking children speaking in evil adult voices, regurgitated nasties, flying furniture, bumps in the night, apparitions. But Crowe saves the movie in several spots in several ways. He knows how silly this is and has some fun with the part.

None of this should work, but it almost does. Note: You could leave before the final splattery half-hour, as the film descends into lurid stock CGI demonic possession tropes. (103 min)