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The Pope's Exorcist could be horror's John Wick - hear me out

The franchises have more in common than you'd think.

Image credit: Sony Pictures, Summit Entertainment

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With everything that's been going on lately, you'd be forgiven for forgetting that we're coming up on the one year anniversary of The Pope's Exorcist. The little demonic horror flick held possession over pop culture in spring of 2023, leading many to wonder whether the standalone film had franchise potential. I, at least, spent some time asking myself that question, and it's my opinion that the answer is yes. In fact, I think Sony's Satanic saga could be more than just a franchise - it could be the horror genre's John Wick.

Allow me to explain.

The Pope's Exorcist's budget vs. box office earnings

Read a couple articles about this papal paranormalcy and you'll notice one fact repeated across the breadth of the internet: weighed against its production budget, The Pope's Exorcist made a killing at the box office. According to BoxOfficeMojo, the movie brought in $77 million, compared to just $18 million (via Variety) it cost to make.

(Just $18 million. Could you imagine?)

The numbers for the first John Wick film tell a similar story. John Wick's box office total nearly quadrupled its production budget, with the film raking in $86 million compared to its $20-30 million production cost (via Men's Health). I know that's a sight higher, but read even a little bit of film history and you'll know that action movies nearly always cost more than horror. If you scale the pair, you get two films that strike a significant cultural nerve and fatten the producers' wallets, all on what is, in the film world, a modest budget.

As to the reason for those successes, well, that could be attributed to any number of things. Cultural zeitgeist, lack of similar movies, you name it. But for our purposes, there's one particular asset I want to point out.

RELATED: What the hell? The Pope's Exorcist ending explained

Russell Crowe on being The Pope's Exorcist

I'm a firm believer that a movie is a community project - for every one person that gets recognition, there are dozens doing more thankless jobs. However, I also can't deny that a film's success is often bolstered by the passion of its lead - think of Margot Robbie in Barbie, Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool, and certainly Keanu Reeves in John Wick. In an interview with Polygon, screenwriters Shay Hatten and Michael Finch say that when The Matrix actor is filming, he "believes he is John Wick," so committed is he to the role.

So, too, is the Pope's Exorcist star committed to playing the titular role of Gabriele Amorth. Speaking with Virgin Media's Six O'Clock Show, star Russell Crowe expounded on playing the character.

"The man that's based on," says Crowe, "He wrote 12 books. So we have more than enough source material to do one or two more of those films. [...] We set that character up that you could take him out and put him into a lot of different circumstances."

You read that right, reader, The Pope's Exorcist is based on a true story. One could argue that this fact even strengthens the case for franchise potential, seeing as how the popular Conjuring horror universe was based on real hauntings, but since John Wick wasn't based on a real person (that we know of), I'll leave that argument for another day.

Will The Pope's Exorcist get a sequel?

That's the potentially billion-dollar question, isn't it? Officially, the answer to this is yes, a sequel to The Pope's Exorcist has been greenlit, as confirmed by horror hounds Bloody Disgusting last year. However, as is the case with so many films in today's ever-changing cinematic climate, a greenlight doesn't necessarily mean a smooth trip home.

Speaking on the subject, Crowe said that the future of a possible Pope's Exorcist franchise is "in discussion at the moment. The producers originally got the kick off from the studio not just for one sequel but for two. But there's been a change of studio heads at the moment, so that's going around in a few circles."

Ultimately, it's here that the similarities between the two franchises matter the most. But not to you or I, dear reader, but to the studio heads. If those people see promise in The Pope's Exorcist, then we may see it getting the Wick treatment, with multiple sequels and spinoffs on the way. But if not, well, it doesn't matter the parallels between the franchises - a Pope's Exorcist franchise would be damned indeed.

The Pope's Exorcist is streaming now on Netflix.

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About the Author
Grant DeArmitt avatar

Grant DeArmitt

Contributing writer

Grant DeArmitt (he/him) likes horror, comics, and the unholy pairing of the two. He has written for Nightmare on Film Street and Newsarama, despite their better judgement. He lives in Brooklyn with his partner, Kelsey, and corgi, Legs.