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The 12 Most Disturbing Moments Of The Pope's Exorcist, Ranked

Contains spoilers for "The Pope's Exorcist"

Director Julius Avery returns to the horror genre with his latest film, "The Pope's Exorcist" — a religious supernatural exorcist story starring Russell Crowe as a real-life exorcist within the Catholic Church. The film — based on the memoirs of a real exorcist for the Vatican, Father Gabriele Amorth — sees Gabriele (Crowe) go to Spain to help a young boy who's been possessed by a demonic entity. While the job seems routine for Gabriele at first, he soon realizes that this demon is much more powerful than expected and has sinister plans for him. So as Gabriele tries to figure out how to beat this demon, he discovers dark secrets about the church's history and finds himself ensnared in an evil game. 

"The Pope's Exorcist" sees Gabriele almost literally fight through hell and back to defeat this demon whose powers unleash some chilling horrors. With its mysterious powers, the demon constantly blurs the lines between reality and nightmares as it crafts some haunting visuals and tortures the minds of those around it. Although Gabriele is a seasoned exorcist, he's never faced anything as disturbing as this demon, and "The Pope's Exorcist" is filled with creepy sequences that'll make your skin crawl. So let's delve into "The Pope's Exorcist's" most unsettling moments and see which ones are the most mortifying. 

12. Demonic puppeteering

It's bad enough that the demon's control over Henry (Peter DeSouza-Feighoney) runs so deep that it causes his humanity to be slowly stripped away. But the demon's power is shown to be much more diabolical when it starts to have a grasp on Amy (Laurel Marsden) as well. When Julia (Alex Essoe) looks for her children, she finds them together laughing and seemingly in a good place. However, that's far from the truth, as Henry and Amy are sitting on the bed clearly under the demon's spell as they speak simultaneously.

Amy and Henry being possessed at the same time is a horrifying sight, and their speaking at the same time makes things much more unsettling. Until this point, that the demon had control over Henry's body was already pretty destructive, since Henry is so young and the demon causes bodily harm to him. But having power over Amy is nightmarish and ends up causing chaos when Gabriele is trying to put an end to the demon's reign over Henry. This is demonic puppeteering at its worst and it makes for a suddenly disturbing moment that showcases the demon's growing power.

11. Gruesome flashback

Early in the film, there is a lingering mystery as to why Henry was chosen by this demon, and the reason behind it eventually comes to light. With demons generally trying to attach themselves to people who are traumatized or face awful darkness in their lives, it becomes clear to Julia and Gabriele that some past trauma likely led the demon to Henry. It's mentioned that Henry has remained silent since his father's death the year prior, and we come to find out that Henry was actually in the car when the fatal accident happened.

The accident is shown in a brief flashback, where we see Henry looking horrified by his father being impaled by something in the car. It's a gruesomely gory moment that kind of comes out of nowhere and totally leaves viewers on edge because of its sudden brutality. Overall, it's a short flashback, but one that leaves its scars on Henry and the audience for that gory visual of death and the intense horror of the moment. 

10. Henry's possession

Exorcism movies are always known for their chilling possession scenes that emphasize a character's demonic turn, whether it's "The Exorcist" or a newer film like "The Pope's Exorcist." Henry's possession definitely leaves viewers on edge with how he violently convulses and scratches at his face as the demon possesses him. It's a huge horror beat in the film that only becomes more disturbing as Julia attempts to figure out how to help him as the demon takes over her son.

Even when Julia tries to get Henry medical help, she's told there's nothing wrong with him — which she definitely learns isn't true. Henry quickly displays some devastating power, and the demonic voice provided by actor Ralph Ineson adds some deep chills to this young boy speaking like the Devil itself. While there are plenty of possession scenes seen throughout this subgenre of horror, Henry's definitely leaves its mark and has lasting ripples that make every appearance of his incredibly unsettling.

9. The haunting history of the church

As Father Gabriele and Father Esquibel (Daniel Zovatto) enter the catacombs below the house, they find a lot of connections to the church. From religious markings on the corpses and walls to archaic practices that Gabriele recognizes to keep evil at bay, this place was once a place where God's presence was felt — but that isn't the case any longer. Gabriel and Esquibel eventually make it into a bigger room where a corpse is sitting on a throne, and after searching it, they come across a diary that unveils a disturbing truth about this demon and the church's past.

It turns out that the corpse sitting on the throne is a former priest who played a role in the Spanish Inquisition. The Spanish Inquisition started in the late 1400s and saw efforts to fight against heresy turn into religious persecution that resulted in mass deaths and fear for hundreds of years. As said by Gabriele, it was a dark time in the church's history. And based on their findings in the priest's diary, it is believed that he was possessed by the same demon that Henry currently is. Under the demon's control, the priest not only enacted plenty of horrors on society but also helped the demon become integrated into the church. They also discover that the church attempted to cover this up, making it a dark secret. It's not necessarily the most graphic moment of the film, but the demon's history and its impact are undoubtedly disturbing.

8. Regurgitating a bloody bird

Gabriele's first encounter with a possessed Henry doesn't go all that great, mostly because he truly sees the evil he's going to have to fight against. Their initial interaction goes about as expected, with the demon saying some dark and cryptic messages and showing incredible resistance to Gabriele's presence. Gabriele isn't phased, though — mostly because he partially believes that this could simply be a case of mental illness rather than possession like he's faced in the past. However, it quickly becomes clear that Henry's case isn't like what Gabriele has dealt with, and he's eventually shown something that's truly gross.

As their conversation becomes more twisted and Gabriele begins to notice that this might be something much more demonic, Henry starts to get this big lump in his throat. Suddenly, he spits up a red bird covered in saliva and blood. The sight will instantly turn your stomach and make any viewer disgusted. Gabriele has always believed that evil exists in the world, but after meeting Henry like this, he's probably not too happy to be right.

7. The priests' dark pasts come back to haunt them

Although Father Gabriele and Esquibel are men of God, they aren't without their sins. As revealed by the demon, Esquibel once had sex with a woman he wasn't going to marry. It's a secret that continues to haunt him and one that comes back in a horrifying form as the demon continually torments him with the image of that woman.

As for Father Gabriel, not only is the priest plagued with the horrors of war (as we see in a brief but brutally bloody flashback), but he's also tortured by the memory of a past failure. Once, Gabriele was tasked to help a mentally ill young woman but refused to due to his sense of pride and beliefs, leading her to take her own life right in front of him. Gabriele's reflection on this traumatic moment is so gutting that it actually brings Esquibel to tears. The scene of these two confessing their sins to each other evokes some disturbing parts of these priests' pasts. The dialogue results in some chilling and surprisingly rough glimpses into their vices.

6. Headed to hell

Upon looking at the well sitting outside the main house, Gabriele notices that its interior has some disturbing designs. The inside of the well is coated with skulls that give it a very evil vibe. However, instead of it causing him to turn away, Gabriele only becomes more intrigued by the well and takes Esquibel to investigate further.

As they head deeper into the catacombs, they discover a hidden door with strange markings and knock it down to find an incredibly creepy setting. There are apparently some secret rooms and caverns filled with tons of decaying corpses and a horrific smell of sulfur. One of the skeletons is even trapped within a cage, and things only become eerier as they go deeper into this hellish place. They eventually find themselves in a bizarre throne room with more skeletons and an evil presence that makes both men feel uncomfortable. Gabriele recognizes this place as "Hell" — or at least, a way to it — and you can't blame him based on the disturbing nature of it and all the horrified looks of the corpses.

5. Gabriele's shocking introduction

"The Pope's Exorcist" definitely opens on the right note and perfectly sets the tone for the film's disturbing supernatural atmosphere and Gabriele's interesting personality. We're initially introduced to Gabriele as he heads to a small Italian village to perform an exorcism on a young man who's supposedly possessed. However, that's not exactly how Gabriele sees the situation. Although the man's body is contorted in a horrifying manner and boasts this vicious anger, Gabriele doesn't believe he's possessed. Rather, he just thinks the man is mentally ill and needs to experience some "psychological theater" to excise his inner demons — which Gabriele provides in shocking fashion.

Gabriele goads the man's "spirit" to go into a pig, and when he does, he asks another man to shoot and kill the pig, thus eradicating the demon. It's definitely an unorthodox way of handling the situation and one disturbing trick that could easily traumatize someone. But it's a great scene for viewers to really see that Gabriele isn't like other priests while also kicking the events of the film off with a disgusting and bloody bang.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

4. The demon attacks

While Henry is still present in his own body, he's unable to stop the demonic entity from torturing his mother and sister — and it gives no mercy to them whatsoever. There's a moment where the demon taunts Amy with a familiar knock pattern between her and brother, only to lead her into the bathroom to paralyze her in fear. Later, while Julia is trying to sleep, she ends up being pulled into her bed and nearly dies before Gabriele and Esquibel save her.

The demon is even crueler to them later in the film and nearly kills them in a brutal fashion. At one point, the demon pins Julia against a wall while Amy is being held up against her will and having her neck twisted until it's about to break. Luckily, Gabriele and Esquibel arrive to stop things again, but it can't be understated how this demon really has it out for Julia and Amy and is constantly on the attack to break their spirits.

3. Gabriele allows himself to be possessed

When Gabriele and Esquibel's big attempt to perform an exorcism on Henry falls apart, Gabriele comes up with one risky solution to stop the demon. Although Gabriele knows that the demon wants to possess his body so that it can invade the Vatican, he decides to allow the demon to possess him so that he can try to regain control of the situation. When the demon takes hold of Gabriele, the film takes a vastly dark turn as Gabriele loses his humanity.

His entire personality and mindset start to feel like they are being torn apart. Gabriele's grip on reality begins to slip, and he nearly decides to end his life to break the demon's hold on him. In short, Gabriele's in a tough place and eventually finds himself in a similar situation to the priest they found in the catacombs. He eventually finds himself back in the underground throne room and suddenly sees an entity that looks like Jesus' mother, Mary, rising out of the pool of water in the middle of the room. Unfortunately, it's another trick by the demon, and it's able to lower Gabriele's inhibitions enough to fully possess him. Gabriele's sacrifice is full of chilling thrills and twisting turns that make it engaging but scary to watch unfold.

2. The fiery final battle

As Esquibel walks into the throne room looking for Gabriele, he finds a horrifying sight that instantly instills fear in him. Gabriele — now possessed by the demon — is sitting on the throne and begins taunting Esquibel. Esquibel attempts to get Gabriele to take back control of his body but is only met with the demon's fury. The room is set ablaze, and Esquibel and Gabriele are forced to face their nightmares and past sins.

Esquibel is forced to fight against the woman he had sex with who's covered in blood, and Gabriele fends off the girl he couldn't save. These battles take an even bloodier turn as Esquibel is able to use a special medallion that Gabriele gives him to defeat his demon — which results in him being coated in blood. As for Gabriele's demon, he's able to team up with Esquibel to throw the demon into the fiery pit of hell that's forming in the middle of the room and cast it back into hell. The film's fiery finale battle is full of graphic imagery and a hellish atmosphere, all of which makes the ending of "The Pope's Exorcist" a worthwhile and absolutely wild sequence that horror fans will love.

1. The exorcism doesn't go as planned

When the time comes for Gabriele and Esquibel to perform an exorcism on Henry — now armed with all the knowledge they have at their disposal — the atmosphere is noticeably tense. With the demon's power growing and stripping Henry's humanity from him to the point where his face has become disfigured, it's kind of a "now or never" scenario. However, it quickly becomes clear that this demon won't be easy to stop. It not only starts bending the realities of Gabriele and Esquibel to crush their spirits and weaken them, but also goes on the offensive with the group.

The demon possesses Amy — compelling her to grotesquely crawl across the room and attempt to kill her own mother. Esquibel is nearly killed as well, since the demon tries to hang him in the air with his own clothes. It's a scene full of absolute chaos that causes some horrific carnage and contains some disturbing imagery that audiences can't look away from. This scene really displays how vile and cruel this demon can be, and it's what makes Gabriele have to choose a sacrificial move that could have damaging ramifications. "The Pope's Exorcist's" big exorcism scene doesn't disappoint and displays some of the most unforgettable mayhem and horror of the entire film.