Legendary director William Friedkin steps behind the camera for another exorcism – this time a purportedly real one that he gained exclusive access to the Vatican to film. It should be a knockout, but instead what we get is a bland, embarrassing, and excruciatingly boring documentary that provides minimal insight or entertainment.
From the very first scene, the bar is set worryingly low, an overly loud and emphatic voiceover from Friedkin himself competing with a groan-worthy “evil” soundtrack. As with everything else in The Devil and Father Amorth, it comes across as a tacky self-parody, occasionally winning unintentional laughter, but generally eliciting impatient sighs.
Pinballing from a potted history of Friedkin’s 1973 The Exorcist – a story already well-told – to the Vatican itself, our introduction to the eponymous priest promises some intensity as he makes his ninth attempt to rid a woman, Christine, of Satan’s influence. But a “real” exorcism has far less in the way of dramatic timing than a fictional one, and the demon-banishing goes on and on with absolutely no variety. Christine hardly comes across as possessed, more just a woman in need of psychotherapy (every exorcism recipient in the film is a woman, which says all that you need to know about the practice).
Some surprising stats are laid out – apparently half a million Italians visit an exorcist every year – and Amorth himself seems an interesting man, having fought in the Italian Resistance against Mussolini before joining the priesthood. These two facts, though, are the only highlights of the film, and now you’ve read them, you have no reason to ever see it.
With the whole film shot on a static, handheld video camera, both the content and execution fail to keep the attention, and at only 68 minutes long, Father Amorth still manages to drag incessantly.
CAST: Gabriele Amortha
DIRECTOR: William Friedkin
WRITERS: William Friedkin, Mark Kermode
SYNOPSIS: Father Gabriele Amortha performs his ninth exorcism on an Italian woman.