The new supernatural horror film, “The Pope’s Exorcist,” is like the typical exorcism movies that are sometimes so bad that they are exciting to watch. Based very loosely on the real Father Gabriel Amorth, who served as the Chief Exorcist of the Vatican City from 1986 to 2016, the film presents an interesting case that the veteran priest has to investigate, in which a young American boy is possessed by a supremely powerful demon. “The Pope’s Exorcist” has all the horror elements that are associated with any film with possessions, as well as a religious angle that even seems to attempt to cover for the Church’s dark pasts.
‘The Pope’s Exorcist’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
The film begins with a scene from 1987 in Tropea, Italy, where Father Gabriel Amorth arrives on his small scooter in order to deal with the possession of a young man in the village. Unlike other priests, at least at that time, Father Amorth is very particular about whether the family has consulted medical practitioners about the problem first, and only if doctors have not been able to help does he then practice his exorcism. In this case, Amorth understands that the possessed man probably just has psychological troubles with no supernatural link, but he and the people around him are all feeding into the frenzy. As he has dealt with multiple similar cases before, Amorth knows that a little bit of theatrics and make-believe would get the job done here. Pretending to perform a cleansing of the possessed man’s soul, Amorth says that he has transferred the soul of the Devil into the body of a pig, which is then shot dead by the villagers.
It is because of his unusual nature and strange practices of exorcism that Amorth has very few supporters in the Church, and his biggest supporter, the Pope himself, is infirm at the time. The priest faces a tribunal for having performed the exorcism without the permission of the Church. At this time, one of the younger priests, Sullivan, tries to convince him that there is no need for the post of an exorcist in such modern and scientific times. Gabriel Amorth claims that he does believe firmly in science and even pushes 98% of his victims towards medicine and science, but he also believes in demons and evil, which constitute the rest 2% of his cases. A man confident in his role as a theologian, a lawyer, a journalist, and the chief exorcist of the Church, Amorth walks away from the tribunal without any remorse.
On the other side, a family of three arrives at an old, abandoned abbey in Castille, Spain. Julia, her teenage daughter Amy, and her young son Henry are Americans who have recently inherited the property, which is the San Sebastian Abbey, and have come down to look after the renovation work. Having lost her husband, whose family owned the abbey, a couple of years ago, Julia has only this property left as any means of wealth, and she plans to renovate it and sell it off to then return to the USA and live her life. However, her plan goes terribly wrong when the young Henry starts to act very strangely and then threatens his mother and sister in a growling tone. Showing signs of possession, Henry’s condition grows worse by the day, and when the Church is contacted, Father Gabriel Amorth is sent to investigate the matter.
How Does The Demon Make Use Of The Past Guilt And Remorse Of Its Victims?
Father Esquibel, a young local priest who had been overseeing the abbey renovations, had been the first to try and cure Henry of whatever was troubling him, but he was simply overpowered. The demon, which had clearly made its way deep into Henry’s body, flung Esquibel away, asking for a particular priest. This was evidently Father Amorth, whose presence makes the demon satisfied, as it seems to have a personal vengeance against Amorth. As the veteran priest interacts with the possessed Henry, he realizes that the demon is far more powerful than any other he has encountered so far. Father Amorth explains to Esquibel that demons have a hierarchy of power, and the more power a demon has, the more information it can access. This is crucial because the demon addresses Amorth by his name, something that is very uncommon in all the cases he works on, and then it also uses information from the past to torment its victims.
Firstly, the reason why Henry could be possessed is also tied to the young boy’s past, as he had witnessed the death of his father very closely. Two years ago, the boy and his father had been traveling in their car when they met with a horrible road accident in which the father was impaled and killed instantly. While Henry survived, the shock and grief of having seen his father in such a state had a deep effect on him. The boy had not spoken for an entire year before the family arrived in Spain, much to the worry of his mother and elder sister. According to Amorth, the pain and grief that were still so present in Henry had made him a vulnerable target for the demon. A similar mental turmoil and anguish were most likely present in the other sibling, Amy, as well, which is why the demon possesses her later on in the film as well.
On the other side, both the priests have their own vulnerabilities from the past as well, which the demon now uses against them. Father Amorth had enlisted in the Resistance Army against the Nazis during his young adulthood, and he had witnessed the deaths of his friends right in front of his eyes. In a desperate attempt to survive, Amorth had pretended to be dead after an encounter with the Nazis and then lived on with the unbearable guilt of surviving while all of his friends had died in battle. But he had found a purpose in life right there on the battlefield when a small red bird flew down to him, and it symbolized new hope in his mind. Later on, after becoming a renowned exorcist, Amorth was appointed to cure the possession of a young woman named Rosaria. Amorth was sure that Rosaria was not possessed but was mentally disturbed, and so he did not want to help the woman and passed on her case to someone else. This ultimately led to Rosaria killing herself, and the guilt of not helping the woman who could have been easily saved still haunts Amorth. This could be why the priest at present still works cases where the victims have some mental illness, trying to help their situation in any way he can.
Father Esquibel had fallen in love with a woman named Adella, who used to frequent his church with her family, and he could not keep away from his carnal desires. Getting physically intimate with the woman, Esquibel initially promised to leave the priesthood for her but could not ultimately do it. This had caused much pain to Adella, and Esquibel also could not forgive himself. The fact that he had broken his promise to the woman and also strayed from the path of God troubled him to this day. The demon makes use of both of these instances, reminding Amorth and Esquibel of their pasts through words as well as hallucinations, and overpowers them in many instances.
Who Is The Demon Possessing Henry? Was Henry Cured Of The Possession?
Father Amorth deduces that the only way to stop the demon from killing Henry and wreaking havoc all over the old abbey would be to identify it and address it by its name. In order to find out more about the demon as well as the place, Amorth investigates the scene and goes down into a chamber that was underneath the abbey. Seeing the Vatican symbol and the seal of the Spanish Inquisition, Amorth realizes that the place has a history tied to one of the darkest periods of the Catholic Church. Going further down into a crypt, Amorth and Esquibel understand the whole scenario and also identify the demon that has possessed Henry. Down inside the crypt, which turns out to be a catacomb, they find the decayed body of Friar Alonso de Ojeda, a renowned exorcist from the past. Alonso de Ojeda had been the one to convince Queen Isabella of the need to carry out the Spanish Inquisition, which resulted in the horrific torture and persecution of thousands in the name of religion. Amorth now finds de Ojeda’s journal along with his corpse, which states that the exorcist had himself been possessed by a dangerous demon he was trying to fight. This finding now changes the entire history, as Amorth realizes that the Spanish Inquisition had been ordered by the demon in control of Alonso de Ojeda, meaning that it was the Devil and not the Church who had led to the sufferings and deaths of so many.
This demon that had possessed Alonso de Ojeda was the king of Hell himself, Asmodeus, and it is the same one now in possession of young Henry’s body. The Book of Revelations states that two hundred rogue angels had been thrown out of Heaven and hurled toward the Earth, from where they were buried in Hell as demons. San Sebastian Abbey happens to be one such spot, and Asmodeus somehow got out of Hell into the mortal world. The Vatican Church had known about this in the past and had even sent a council of priests to stop the demon, but Asmodeus was just too powerful. The priests had caged themselves up and sealed the crypt to keep the demon at bay, but the seals had been cracked during the renovation work. Asmodeus had been planning to find his 199 other fallen brethren to unify an army of demons and launch an attack on Heaven, and for this, he was in search of a powerful exorcist whom he would possess. This was the reason why Asmodeus asked for Amorth at the very beginning, as he planned to take possession of the priest and infiltrate the Catholic Church through him.
Upon realizing all of this, Father Amorth decides that he needs to protect the two possessed youngsters, Henry and Amy, and he is ready to put himself in trouble for it. Ultimately, Amorth allows Asmodeus to take control of him only so that he can leave Henry and Amy’s bodies, ensuring that Julia can drive away from the place with her children, who are now safe. Amorth then fights with all his will to stop the demonic possession inside his body and struggles to keep Asmodeus at bay.
‘The Pope’s Exorcist’ Ending Explained
As an epic battle between the demon and the priest goes on inside Father Amorth’s body, the man decides that the only way to stop Asmodeus would be to kill himself while the demon was still inside his body. Amorth tries multiple ways, like hanging himself, but the demon gets in his way every time, as it wants to infiltrate the Church with the priest’s body. Amorth then returns to the crypt again, where a sinister-looking pool of water has opened up, and it seems to be the gateway to Hell. The veteran priest looks almost overpowered by the demon, and Father Esquibel also now joins him, who has to face a second demon that appears as Adella. Right about then, Esquibel starts chanting prayers in Latin, which Amorth had asked him to learn earlier, and the demons are no match for such powers. Together with the prayers, a medal, and a crucifix blessed with holy powers, the two priests finally manage to defeat Asmodeus. The king of Hell is thrown back into the infernal abyss, and the entrance between the two worlds is sealed over by Amorth and Esquibel.
As the two men go over to Vatican City, the Pope blesses them and congratulates them for their work. They are also made aware that all the documents at San Sebastian Abbey have been brought over to the Vatican archives, and Julia has also successfully sold off the property and returned to the USA with Amy and Henry, both of whom are now absolutely recovered. The soil at the abbey has been reconsecrated by the Church, meaning that demons cannot return through the spot. But it is also made clear that other 199 similar spots on the Earth still remained open, and a demon powerful enough could return just like Asmodeus had. Father Amorth and Father Esquibel now decide that they would work as a team of exorcists if anything like this happened again, making a sequel to “The Pope’s Exorcist” possible or even turning it into a franchise. “The Pope’s Exorcist” ends with a real photograph of Father Gabriele Amorth, who had continued to serve as the Chief Exorcist of the Vatican City till his death in 2016.