The Exorcist III (1990)

William Peter Blatty


George C. Scott - Lieutenant William F. Kinderman 

Ed Flanders - Father Joseph Dyer

Jason Miller - Patient X / Damien Karras

Scott Wilson - Dr. Temple

Brad Dourif - James Venamun / The "Gemini Killer"

Genre - Horror/Mystery/Crime/Demons/Possession/Serial Killers

Running Time - 110 Minutes


Set fifteen years after the original film, THE EXORCIST III centers around the philosophical Lieutenant William F. Kinderman who is investigating a baffling series of murders around Georgetown that all contain the hallmarks of The Gemini, a deceased serial killer. It eventually leads him to a catatonic patient in a psychiatric hospital who has recently started to speak, claiming he is the The Gemini and detailing the murders, but bears a striking resemblance to Father Damien Karras.


With THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER coming to theaters in a couple of weeks, I’ve been revisiting THE EXORCIST franchise to get hyped up for a sequel/reboot that will probably won’t live to even the lowest expectations. The first film from 1973 still holds up exceptionally as a horror classic. THE HERETIC: EXORCIST II from 1977 would be appreciated as some sort of camp and so-bad-it’s-good movie if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s meant to be the sequel to an absolute masterpiece. Talk about a massive disappointment, although there are some out there who appreciate it for the trash that it is.

Despite the horror genre waning in popularity amongst the mainstream during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Hollywood decided it was time to step back into the world of THE EXORCIST. In 1990, THE EXORCIST III was released to some decent success both critically and even financially. Based on William Peter Blatty’s sequel novel Legion, Blatty himself decided to adapt his novel into a screenplay. He also decided to direct the film himself to make sure his story was given the respect it deserved and be a truly serious sequel to the original unlike THE HERETIC.

Even in 2023, THE EXORCIST III is still the only other film in the series [besides the first] to be given massive praise for its tone, approach to the narrative, and even the overall production. Despite the studio wanting Blatty’s ending to be more akin to the ending of the original EXORCIST [which he was against, creating the need of a Legion Cut that’s closer to the novel’s conclusion], THE EXORCIST III is still a super solid flick that ought to get more love and attention than it actually does.

While there is still demonic activity and supernatural occurrences one would expect out of an EXORCIST movie, THE EXORCIST III is more in line with a crime procedural at times - sort of like SE7EN, FALLEN or even COPYCAT would do years later. The main narrative revolves around “The Gemini Killer”, a serial killer who is known to cut certain fingers or drain a victim’s blood as a trademark, along with desecrating religious statues by beheading them, painting them in blackface or adding sexual connotations that would disturb most people. The problem about all this is that it’s believed “The Gemini Killer” had been already found and executed for his crimes. And while at first this new series of murders seem like a copycat, this new killer is doing things the old “Gemini Killer” would do that only the police know about [the real modus operandi and trademarks were kept from the public].

The detective investigating this is Lieutenant William F. Kinderman, a supporting character from the original EXORCIST who was investigating all the murders and strange activity happening around the McNeil household at the time. Along with his friend Father Dyer, another supporting character from the first film, they’re wondering if this may be the real "Gemini Killer" doing all these heinous things. It gets stranger as all clues lead them to a psychiatric hospital where Father Karras seems to be the main suspect - which shouldn’t be possible since Father Dyer found him dead on those infamous McNeil steps after he took in the demon that had possessed Regan and sacrificed himself by leaping out of a window to his supposed death. So when confronting Father Karras in his hospital room, he sometimes appears as himself and then as someone named James Venamun, who claims to be the real “Gemini Killer”. So what’s going on?

This mystery really raises the creep factor of THE EXORCIST III, as we’re not sure what we’re really seeing or supposed to believe when it comes to “The Gemini Killer”. There’s obviously a possession going on with the same demon [Pazuzu] who had possessed both Regan and Karras. But is this man really Karras, or is he James Venamun? Is he both? Is he neither? Through Lt. Kinderman, who is a skeptic and doesn’t believe in any of the stories about demon possession and a previous exorcism, his slow belief about the supernatural is a great character arc and gets the audience invested to go along the ride with him as he starts to figure out the truth. The story of the storytelling and mystery is strengthened by personnel and patients at the psychiatric hospital, who all behave in strange ways for whatever reason, making you question if these people are all influenced by this evil or are just quirky as heck and are red herrings to throw off one’s scent. Everyone besides Kinderman and Dyer all seem like they’re hiding something from the Lieutenant, putting to question whether this is all really happening or something this evil presence is doing to confuse the detective along with the audience. Unlike the goofiness and overly ambitious script that plagued THE HERETIC, Blatty treats this whole scenario seriously - something that helped the original EXORCIST to achieve the status it did from all audiences [not just horror audiences]. We care about Kinderman and his investigation because he cares and doesn’t let anything strange or personal stop him from finding out the truth.

While the theatrical cut and the Legion Cut are similar in many ways, the real differences are how “The Gemini Killer” is presented and the endings themselves. In the Legion Cut, we don’t even get Father Karras at all, with James Venamun being the only real antagonist. This actually cements the narrative as more realistic, as Venamun is just a “normal” man who may know more things about the serial killings than one ought to. Or maybe he’s possessed after all. Or just plain crazy. There’s something supernatural going on in the theatrical version, but the Legion Cut makes you question it a bit more until the end. 

As for the endings, The Legion Cut ends pretty abruptly with a single gunshot to wrap things up. The studio had issues with this because nothing in this version played up to the title of the film. In other words, where was the exorcism? So despite Blatty being against it, he took up the challenge to build up a more fantastical ending involving an underused priest, supernatural effects and a battle between good versus evil that connected itself back to THE EXORCIST. I know a lot of people prefer the simpler ending of the Legion Cut, but I feel the theatrical ending kicks things up a few notches and feels more satisfying to me as a whole. Kinderman finally believes in demonic possession, Father Karras gets redeemed a bit, and it truly feels the evil is gone for the time being. I can appreciate a more subtle approach for the original plan, but an EXORCIST movie should have some sort of exorcism in it. Both versions are worth your time, but I feel the theatrical version is a bit more exciting to watch due to the ending.

William Peter Blatty is a great novelist, but he also makes for a very good director as well. His second and last directorial film [the first being the awesome 1980’s THE NINTH CONFIGURATION], Blatty is more subtle in his visual approach than William Friedkin or even John Boorman. Blatty’s style is more comparable to a 90s thriller - slow [but not dull], muted colors, and adding weird things in the background that make you focus on the entire shot rather than what is just happening in the foreground. I mean, there are people crawling on ceilings, morphing into multiple people and even that classic moment involving a nurse and a large pair of shears. And despite his arguments against filming it, I think the theatrical ending is shot pretty well for the most part. Honestly, THE EXORCIST III is more of an actor’s showcase where the characters are more important than the visuals. But Blatty does a good job and manages to direct a sequel that feels more connected to the first one than THE HERETIC ever did.

The cast is very solid. George C. Scott is pretty great as Lt. Kinderman, playing a gruff skeptic who finally starts to believe he’s way over-his-head with a situation he has no idea how to deal with until the end. I love how quiet his performance is at the start of the film, but turns a bit more hammy and over-the-top towards the end. It’s wonderful. Ed Flanders is also great as Father Dyer, bringing in some humor to a serious movie. His chemistry with Scott is awesome and you truly believe these two have been friends for decades. Scott Wilson is solid as Dr. Temple. Jason Miller is very good as the returning Father Karras, struggling with what happened to him at the end of the first film. But Brad Dourif is the main reason to watch THE EXORCIST III, as he steals every scene as “The Gemini Killer” James Venamun. Dourif is just captivating and commanding through his subtle body language, maniacal facial expressions and the strong reciting of his dialogue. He’s given more to say and do in The Legion Cut, being the best part of that version as well. Just a fantastic performance in a great sequel.


is probably one of the more underrated great horror sequels ever made. Subtly strong direction by William Peter Blatty, a captivating mystery mixed with some memorable scares and visuals, and fantastic performances - especially by George C. Scott, Jason Miller and especially Brad Dourif. While it’s not a masterpiece like the 1973 original, this 1990 sequel is definitely a massive improvement over 1977’s THE HERETIC: EXORCIST II in every single way, making this the first real sequel [in my opinion] of the franchise. While I prefer the Theatrical Cut due to its final act, The Legion Cut is no slouch and offers something to those wanting a more grounded resolution. Either way, this is a mandatory viewing for any fan of this franchise.


3.5 Howls Outta 4

(9 out of 10)


DOUBLE FEATURE: The Nun (2018) & The Nun II (2023)


Corin Hardy (THE NUN)

Michael Chaves (THE NUN II)


Taissa Farmiga - Sister Irene

Jonas Bloquet - Maurice “Frenchie” Theriault

Bonnie Aarons - The Nun

Demian Bichir - Father Burke (THE NUN)

Ingrid Bisu - Sister Oana (THE NUN)

Charlotte Hope - Sister Victoria (THE NUN)

Storm Reid - Debra (THE NUN II)

Anna Popplewell - Kate (THE NUN II)

Katelyn Rose Downey - Sophie (THE NUN II)

Genre - Horror/Supernatural/Demons/Possession

Running Time - 96 Minutes (THE NUN)/110 Minutes (THE NUN II)


THE NUN - When a young nun at a cloistered abbey in Romania takes her own life, a priest with a haunted past (Demian Bichir) and a novitiate on the threshold of her final vows (Taissa Farmiga) are sent by the Vatican to investigate. Together they uncover the order’s unholy secret. Risking not only their lives but their faith and their very souls, they confront a malevolent force in the form of the same demonic nun (Bonnie Aarons) that first terrorized audiences in THE CONJURING 2 as the abbey becomes a horrific battleground between the living and the damned.

THE NUN II - Four years after the events at the Abbey of St. Carta, Sister Irene returns once again and comes face to face with the demonic force Valak, the Nun.


After taking a much needed break from reviewing since April, I was planning on returning many times for films that were being released theatrically for the past few months. While there were a couple of gems out there [THE BLACKENING and TALK TO ME], the others just left me in a state of “meh”.

THE BOOGEYMAN? Fine, but not motivating enough to discuss.

INSIDIOUS: THE RED DOOR? Underwhelming return for the original cast that probably would have lowered my original score if I had written about it.

THE HAUNTED MANSION? I forgot it even existed and so should you.

THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER? Hopefully for all our sakes.

But I knew I had to return for something. And with 2023’s spooky season finally here, we got some big projects being released. SAW X? THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER? FIVE NIGHT AT FREDDY’S? There are films many of us will be discussing for the next couple of months.

However things are starting early with THE NUN II, another spin-off of the popular and successful THE CONJURING franchise that not many people were all that excited about honestly. Despite watching all three CONJURING flicks [first two are aces, the third one is whatever], I have never sat down and watched any of the spin-offs. No ANNABELLE movies. Not THE NUN flicks. And I never bothered with THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA. But I’m an AMC A-List member and I figured I might as well use my subscription on this. But first, I had to watch the original NUN movie to understand this sequel.

And man… 2018’s THE NUN is not a good movie. In fact, it’s so uneventful that I have already forgotten what I watched [besides the flashbacks and call backs in the sequel]. Audiences must have really loved the Nun character in THE CONJURING 2, which is the only explanation I can come up with when it comes to its good box office numbers. But I’m sure some wished they had never bothered after watching it.

The good? THE NUN has a ton of atmosphere and mood that at least tries to give the movie a creepy vibe that the story and direction fail to do. So great Gothic cinematography boosts the first film, along with a solid cast that also elevates proceedings a bit. Bonnie Aarons is a wonderful presence as the evil Nun, while Taissa Farmiga and Demian Bichir do well with what they’re given as the two main protagonists. Jonas Bloquet is also okay, although his attempt as the comic relief doesn’t really work at all and feels forced.

Other than that, THE NUN is a mess of a spin-off. Director Corin Hardy relies too much on jump scares - none of them work, by the way - making the film feel more annoying than scary. And the story is all over the place, to the point where it’s big ambition to do an INDIANA JONES and DA VINCI CODE type of narrative just takes you out of it and makes you not remember much at all once it’s over. Not only do you have an evil Nun, but you also have a demonic ghost child, the blood of Jesus Christ as a MacGuffin, and a young nun with visions that may or may not be doing more harm than good. The film honestly barely kept my interest despite all of this, mainly because none of these plot devices felt truly developed. THE CONJURING films work because they follow the slow burn, less-is-more approach. THE NUN tries too much and feels like an unnecessary cash in as a result.

Because of my lack of feelings for THE NUN, I honestly wasn’t expecting much out of THE NUN II. But surprisingly, this is a sequel that actually manages to be a huge improvement over the first one in almost every single way. Hell, I liked THE NUN II more than some of the other recent films that I wrote about earlier.

The producers of THE NUN must have realized that despite the money they made, the fan and critical response wasn’t great. And despite this sequel being a total cash grab and unnecessary, I have to actually admire everyone involved for fixing some of the issues and actually trying to make a decently watchable film that felt more focused and purposeful for the overall franchise. I’m not saying that THE NUN II is a masterpiece or even good, but I can respect producers who see the error of their ways to create a film even a hater like me could even enjoy for the most part.

What helps this sequel is that THE NUN II has a tighter, more focused narrative that keeps things as simple as possible, despite it being pretty generic and cliche. There’s an actual course of action from beginning to end that makes sense, allowing characters old and new to develop into actual people we can somewhat care about and/or have a reaction to, despite a larger cast. 

Unlike the adventure and mystery style of the first film, THE NUN II is a more straightforward good versus evil, exorcism type of movie that we’ve all seen done multiple times before. And while we’ve already had films this year that have done this [THE POPE’S EXORCIST] and films yet to come [THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER], at least it’s a narrative I can easily understand and get into. Frenchie being possessed by the Nun’s evil gives the movie a reason for Sister Irene to seek him out and reconnect. His possession also justifies why he’s working at a Catholic school and seeking some ancient artifact for his possessor to gain ultimate power. These plot devices allow older characters to grow in a more interesting way that the previous film didn’t allow them to, while giving newer characters a reason to exist - even if most of them are just there to be victims of the evil that’s corrupting the school. Sister Irene’s new friendship and mentorship with nun-in-training Debra is given enough time to develop into something interesting enough that I wouldn’t mind it continuing if there’s another installment. Frenchie’s more serious character is a massive improvement and he becomes a well-written character because of it, especially through his relationships with a woman he previously had feelings for [Irene] and the teacher he falls for [Kate] fleshing him out and giving him a reason to fight against the evil possessing him. We even have a decent mystery and some bullish female characters that will probably elicit some sort of reaction from the audience.

The direction by Michael Chaves, who also directed CONJURING spin-off THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA [which I’ve never bothered with] and THE CONJURING 3 [yuck], does a good job with THE NUN II. The film loses a lot of its atmosphere and mood from the first film unfortunately. But the tone and action is done a lot better here. There’s no unnecessary comedy getting in the way. The jump scares are kept to a minimum. The newsstand scene from the trailer is still effective within the context of the film [great scene]. And the film’s final act is pretty strong, especially when we have the Nun stalking people, a ton of explosions and a good looking Devil-Goat thing that terrorizes the school. Chaves doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything like that, but I thought the film was visually more interesting than the first film.

The actors are also pretty good here again. The returning actors [Farmiga and Blochet] are much stronger in the sequel, due to better writing for their characters and just an overall confidence boost from both of them. Blochet, in particular, is handled much better here than in the first as he’s given more meaty material to chew on. Bonnie Aarons is still wonderful as the evil Nun, maintaining the same level of malevolent presence she had in THE CONJURING 2. The only actor who felt a bit out-of-place is probably Storm Reid as the new nun-in-training Debra. She’s not terrible or anything [actually, she’s good in the role she’s given], but her character is written in such a modern way that her performance doesn’t fit the tone of a 1950s period piece. You get a bit used to it by the film’s end, but it’s definitely jarring for her first few scenes. 


Even though I had to sit through the bland and unimpressive THE NUN from 2018 in order to watch the current THE NUN II, I’m kind of glad I did since the sequel is a much better time than the first installment. THE NUN skates by with a great atmosphere and decent performances, but not much else. THE NUN II is an improvement in almost every way. Better performances, more care with the jump scares and a more interesting, if not generic, good versus evil exorcism movie that allows some depth to characters who didn’t have much before.

In fact, I had more fun with THE NUN II than a majority of the big screen horror films I’ve watched this summer, which is surprising since I didn’t care about this sequel at all prior to viewing it. I don’t think any of THE NUN films are must-sees or anything, but it may be worth sitting through the dull first movie in order to get caught up with the much more watchable sequel. With the success of the new installment, we’ll probably see more about this character. But we don’t really need NUN of that, do we?


THE NUN (2018)

1.5 Howls Outta 4

(4 out of 10)

THE NUN II (2023)

2.5 Howls Outta 4

(6 out of 10)


Evil Dead Rise (2023)


Lee Cronin


Lily Sullivan - Beth

Alyssa Sutherland - Ellie

Morgan Davies - Danny

Gabrielle Echols - Bridget

Nell Fisher - Cassie

Jayden Daniels - Gabriel

Anna-Maree Thomas - Jessica

Genre - Horror/Demons

Running Time - 97 Minutes


Two sisters find an ancient book that gives birth to bloodthirsty demons that run amok in a Los Angeles apartment building and thrusts them into a primal battle for survival as they face the most nightmarish version of family imaginable.


After ten years since a popular remake that was meant to relaunch a beloved franchise, we finally get a new EVIL DEAD movie in theaters. Ever since 1981, this cult horror franchise has been embraced warmly by the horror community through multiple films, several video games and even a television show that lasted for three seasons. Originally planned to be an HBO Max exclusive for 2022, the new owners of Warner Bros. Discovery decided it was worth releasing the series’ fifth installment, EVIL DEAD RISE, in theaters as a way to gain a profit by seeing how well it would perform at the box office. Considering the film has already made its budget back and just needs a few million to start building a profit for the studio, I say WBD made the right decision here. It’s also a good thing that EVIL DEAD RISE is a pretty good horror flick, despite that this installment may be the weakest of any EVIL DEAD film [and TV show] that has come before it.

First off, I think having a different location for the Deadites was a great decision. It’s been proven that it can work outside of a woods and cabin setting, like the refreshing take in ARMY OF DARKNESS and even on the Ash vs. Evil Dead television show. Having the demons take over a high rise building in Los Angeles is definitely a step in the right direction if they plan on continuing the franchise [which will obviously happen due to EVIL DEAD RISE’s success]. While I do wish more was done inside of the entire building when it came to the terror, I thought enough of the location was used to create a level of claustrophobia. Having most of the events happen within a single apartment was cool, while the elevator and parking garage moments were effectively used to heighten things a bit.

I also thought the characters were likable enough of the audience to get behind them, even if some of them do stupid things. I wish the characters had a bit more depth, but you get enough information about them to know who they are. Free-spirit Beth is hiding a pregnancy she hasn’t fully dealt with yet. Single mother Ellie who is trying to move on with her life, dealing with the abandonment of an ex-husband and having to raise three children while preparing a quick move out of the building. Bridget seems to be the oldest and environmentally friendly. Danny is a DJ and music lover who sees demonic books and reads them while playing records where the evil words of the Naturom Demonto are being read to unleash hell. Cassie is the youngest and seems to enjoy making weapons to protect herself. They’re a dysfunctional family who clearly love each other and get tested when Ellie becomes a Deadite. We also have neighbors who seem to have their own stories, but they’re never really focused on. Neighbor Gabriel seemed to have a thing for Ellie and vice-versa, but that never went anywhere really. I don’t think the film focuses on the relationships enough to feel their familial connection. But separately, the characters are enjoyable to watch on various levels.

I think the only reason why the characters worked better than what the script probably meant was due to the performances. Everyone in the cast did a great job with what they were given. In particular, Lily Sullivan was a strong lead as Beth. Sullivan manages to balance toughness with vulnerability, convincingly playing a woman who will do anything to make sure her and her family survive while trying to figure out how to stop the Deadites from completely taking over the building. Of the younger cast, Nell Fisher probably left the biggest impression as Cassie. Being the youngest main actress, Fisher carried herself very well and probably had the time of her life stabbing people in self-defense and getting drenched in blood. Her character made some real dumb decisions that kind of annoyed me, but Fisher’s likability softened those feelings a bit.

The star of the show though was, undoubtedly, Alyssa Sutherland as Ellie. Sutherland’s solid as a struggling single mother and sister who is trying to move on with her life for the sake of her children. But when she becomes the lead Deadite for the rest of the movie, Sutherland’s performance is borderline creepy and darkly comedic at the same time. She also changes up her body movements, transforming her character from human to this alien being that has no issue causing havoc for her host’s family. I hope to see Sutherland do more projects in the future because she really stepped up and elevated EVIL DEAD RISE for me.

I also enjoyed the homages and easter eggs that the film provided to fans of the franchise and to fans of the genre. We have references to previous EVIL DEAD films, like the mention of swallowing souls, reciting “Dead by Dawn” and even the eyeball gag into someone’s mouth like in EVIL DEAD II. Plus, we get the classic chainsaw making an appearance.

There are also tributes for other horror films. The peep hole stuff reminded me of classic Dario Argento, especially 1986’s OPERA. We get blood pouring out of an elevator like 1980’s THE SHINING. And the final boss seems to be inspired by 1982’s THE THING. It’s obvious Lee Cronin is a horror film fan and I felt a lot of these callbacks felt more inspired than fan service.

The gore and effects were also very good. A mix of both practical effects and CGI, they looked pretty impressive considering the movie had a $15 million budget. The Deadites looked great. The blood looked convincing. While the film could have been a bit edgier like the 2013 reboot/remake, some of the violent moments were cringe worthy in the best way. That cheese grater moment in particular - *shivers*.

The direction by Lee Cronin is super solid, as he understood the assignment and managed to connect EVIL DEAD RISE to the rest of the franchise while maintaining its own identity. I thought there was a lot of style in terms of shots and I felt what was used when it came to the building was done really well. I liked that the Raimi sweeping shots for the Deadites were retained and that the gruesome moments weren’t shied away. I think Cronin could have possibly pushed things further and actually made the movie scarier than it actually was. But the film was shot well and Cronin managed to keep the essence of the franchise intact.

There are issues with EVIL DEAD RISE though. While I understood the need for the pregnancy angle as a plot device to make Beth more maternal as the film progressed, it doesn’t really add much to the movie by its end. I think the character could have still hit similar beats without it, considering she cared about her sister’s children prior to the Deadites appearing.

I also thought some of the characters really did some dumb things that frustrated and annoyed me. I get that it’s a horror trope and that’s how things move forward in these films. But as I get older, the more my eyes roll at some of these characters’ antics. Even at a young age, I was never that naive at the presence of danger.

Despite a cool prologue and some awesome title cards, I thought the last few minutes felt oddly placed within the structure of the film. I get why it’s there as a way to explain what we saw first and how this will probably lead to more installments. But it fell kind of flat for me, especially that jump scare at the end. 

And like I mentioned earlier, the film doesn’t really push the envelope enough and feels the tamest and safest of the EVIL DEAD films. I was expecting something more violent and gorier and it just played out like your standard horror flick. What we get is great, but the other EVIL DEAD movies stand out due to the insane amount of blood, Deadite action and energy when it comes to the hero against the Deadites. When the energy does pop off, I feel it’s a bit late getting there and there’s not much time devoted to it. I just feel EVIL DEAD RISE doesn’t take enough chances.


Although it’s my least favorite entry in this franchise, EVIL DEAD RISE is still a solid addition to the EVIL DEAD series. Director Lee Cronin understood the assignment, including things that fans of the franchise would expect or enjoy, while still keeping this installment as its own thing apart from the rest. Having the events started by the
Naturom Demonto take place inside a high-rise building within an urban environment is a great fresh take for the series, even though I think more could have been done with the location. Same goes for the characters, who while likable, could have used a bit more depth and aren’t as memorable as Ash or Mia before them. But the cast is wonderful, especially Lily Sullivan as heroine Beth and Alyssa Sutherland as one of the more memorable Deadites in the franchise in Ellie. While I wish this installment had pushed the envelope more in some aspects, it’s still a fun movie and a worthy entry in the world of EVIL DEAD. Let’s see where they go with things in the next one, if that box office is any indication.


3 Howls Outta 4

(8 out of 10)


The Pope's Exorcist (2023)

Julius Avery

Russell Crowe - Father Gabriele Amorth
Daniel Zovatto - Father Esquibel
Alex Essoe - Julia
Franco Nero - The Pope
Laurel Marsden - Amy
Peter DeSouza-Feighoney - Henry

Genre: Horror/Mystery/Thriller/Possession/Demons

Running Time: 103 Minutes

Based on true stories. Father Gabriele Amorth, Chief Exorcist of the Vatican, investigates a young boy’s terrifying possession and ends up uncovering a centuries-old conspiracy the Vatican has desperately tried to keep hidden.


If you watched the trailer to THE POPE’S EXORCIST and thought that you’ve seen this film time and time before, you would be correct as this 2023 movie is as generic as they come where it concerns possession films. All the tropes are there - an innocent child getting possessed by a demon, the family taking the possessed victim to doctors to realize it’s not a medical issue, two priests with flaws trying to vanquish this demon to save the child and protect the victim’s family, and even a priest begging the demon to possess them in order to save the child. I swore I’ve seen this movie before. Did Sony really try to upstage David Gordon Green’s THE EXORCIST reboot/sequel before its release this October? Sneaky sneaky, Sony.

Seriously, THE POPE’S EXORCIST could and probably should have gone straight to streaming since it doesn’t really add anything new to this type of horror sub-genre, especially when a more hyped film with a similar theme is coming out later in the year. The only reason it didn’t is because of Oscar winner Russell Crowe, who is the best part of this movie with an entertaining performance as the title character. The actor is clearly having fun playing a priest who gets to face off against demons [both physical and personal], performing all the tropes with a smile on his face and a wink to the audience. He gets to speak multiple languages. He gets to play both good and evil. Crowe could have really coasted with THE POPE’S EXORCIST, but he totally has his heart in the role and he elevates a by-the-numbers horror film into something more watchable than it deserves.

And even though the film is obviously about good triumphing over evil through faith and love in God, I appreciated that THE POPE’S EXORCIST criticizes some aspects of the Church at certain points. Superiors want to eliminate the process of exorcisms, feeling they’re old hat. But Father Gabriele questions that if they do that, what’s the point of spreading the word of good against evil? Also, the two lead priests have things in their past that affect their progress during the exorcism, giving us a look that even these so-called “saints” struggle and succumb to sin just like the rest of us. It’s refreshing to see a movie that’s focused on religion and faith being this powerful thing to let in some negativity on the Church and some of the people that work for it. So the film gets points for that.

Unfortunately, since the film is mainly focused on Father Gabriele and Father Esquibel, the story doesn’t allow the audience to really know the family of the possessed child. Other than the fact that the family is dealing with grief over the death of their husband/father and are in Spain to sell inherited property [that just happens to have been part of the Spanish Inquisition], not much is really known about them. Unlike the McNeils in THE EXORCIST, The Montellis in AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION, or even Emily Rose in THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, the audience has no real attachment to the victims. That takes away tension and suspense because I honestly didn’t care what would happen, while at the same time knowing that good would triumph because that’s what these films tell us. It’s a shame because their performances were pretty good, especially Alex Essoe as the mother and Peter DeSouza-Feighoney as the young possessed boy, Henry. But I’ve seen these similar roles performed better in other films, and that’s due to the script.

The direction by Julius Avery is fine, but nothing memorable. If you’ve seen other possession horror films, you know what you’re getting here. There’s nothing new in terms of style or presentation. Tension and suspense isn’t really there. Jump scares don’t really work, at least not on me. The CGI gets pretty heavy during the final act and that’s actually used quite well for the most part. But to be honest with you, I watched THE POPE’S EXORCIST two days ago and I barely remember anything that stuck out from the visual presentation. Pretty on-the-nose stuff here.


A pretty generic exorcism movie, THE POPE’S EXORCIST only really manages to stand out due to a fun Russell Crowe performance as the title character. While the rest of the cast are decent, Crowe steals the show in every scene he’s in and truly seems to be enjoying himself since he knows what type of movie he’s acting in and embraces it. The film is also elevated by a not-so black and white look at the Church, the flawed priests and the superiors’ stance on exorcisms back in the day that makes one question if they believed evil could possess good people or not. Other than that, every trope you need in an exorcism story is here and you won’t be surprised by the lack of suspense, tension and scares because you know exactly where things are going. Even the visual presentation by Julius Avery is by-the-numbers, despite a good use of CGI in the film’s final act. THE POPE’S EXORCIST is watchable fluff not worth getting possessed over.

2 Howls Outta 4
(6 out of 10)

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