The Rite Doesn’t Get Exorcisms Right


How many of these tired ‘based on a true story’ do we have to go through before the studios finally stop making them again? We can add The Rite to that pile of films that normally would have gone straight to dvd if not for the presence of Anthony Hopkins, but even all his gnashing onscreen doesn’t bring much life to this film. Hopefully, many theater goers realize that January is the month where studios dump their crap that didn’t do so well in test screenings hoping to make a little money off people who still don’t realize this.

‘The Rite’ does start out with a bit of a bang as most filmmakers know that is needed for good horror films. Even Wes Craven taught us all that as long as your started and ended with a bang audiences would forgive a bad middle section. I have to disagree with that since that just sounds like lazy ass filmmaking to me. If you’re going to make any movie at all, why not make it the best you can rather than trying to do shortcuts? It makes no sense, but let’s get on to the review of this film.

Since ‘The Rite’ is based on a nonfiction book by Matt Baglio, which documents the initiation of fiftysomething Reverend Gary Thomas of Los Altos, California, as an exorcist, the filmmaker takes some creative license. One that will make the viewer smirk is with the introduction of journalist, Angeline (Alice Braga), who is investigating exorcisms. To dispel any conjecture that all priests have different proclivities, there’s a flirtatation between the two so we know this priest is straight and likes women.

The bland as mayonnaise Michael (Colin O’Donoghue), whose initiation into exorcism propels the plot, is introduced working in his family’s mortuary in typical dead end town in America with a father (Rutger Hauer) who just doesn’t seem to interested in having a son. Needing a ticket out, he chooses seminary school, despite having no apparent surplus of faith or zeal. And then as the movie shows us, “Four Years Later,” still not having developed the required vocational feeling, he’s ready to leave but is talked into visiting Rome for a trial run in an exorcist-training program. Here, Michael begins his apprenticeship to Lucas, a Welsh Jesuit tending to the daily exorcism needs of Roman families. Watching Lucas on his rounds, Michael clings to his doubt, even when viewing a contorted patient who plays a game of Twister without the mat, becomes fluently profane in foreign tongues, and coughs up iron nails.

After such a promising beginning, and what looks like it’ll turn into an interesting mystery while also bringing Michael’s skepticism into question on differing theological aspects, Anthony Hopkins enters, and the film quickly slows down almost to a halt. It almost feels like everything that ‘The Rite’ was building to is suddenly forgotten when Hopkins steps into the picture. This where a stronger director would know how to reign in his actors while also heightening the performances from the others. Colin O’Donoghue is so out of his league in this film, that it feels more like he got the role for being pretty and someone owed someone a favor which resulted in him getting the role. He’s seems much better suited to acting on the CW where pretty and bland seem to make tv stars shine.

As the film progresses onward, it suddenly veers into territory that the screenwriter obviously felt was serious, but in the hands of this director turn into funny lines that make your eyes role without the need of an exorcist. The scene that garnered the biggest laugh from the audience was the final exorcism, in which Hopkin’s red-faced, bug-eyed Father Lucas begins to resemble John Boehner having a particularly nasty hissy fit. Not helping matters is the fact that the possessed priest’s taunting of his foes just makes you think of ‘Silence Of the Lambs’ and how much better he was in that movie. All I could think of was the time I saw a very bad version of “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the Ford Theater in New York and was liking Judas way more than Jesus (the actors at least). I think many filmgoers will be rooting for the devil to win if these are the types of people that are supposed to be saving souls.

Source by W. C. Johnson

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