Demons run amok - but always out of sight - in 2011's obligatory exorcism movie, this one called The Rite. Starring Colin O'Donaghue and Anthony Hopkins, the brooding thriller maintains a measure of tension but still manages to be one of the more boring exorcism movies in recent memory.
In a subgenre that has been dominated by a single movie - The Exorcism - it's stunning that directors still attempt to one-up what many say is "the best horror movie of all time." Then again, it's not about one-upping; it's about offering something different and unique.
The Rite is, at least, different. The movie, from director Mikael Håfström (1408), explores the question whether demons exist or those who appear to be possessed are simply mentally deranged.
Well, it tries to explore that question.
In The Rite, O'Donoghue plays Michael Kovak, a young man who has entered the seminary despite atheistic views. For some reason, his fellow priests see great potential in him - because strong faith is apparently not a good indicator of potential - and he's assigned to "exorcism class", where he continues to question his teachings.
As a result, he's assigned to team up with the unorthodox Father Lucas Trevant (Anthony Hopkins), who has exorcised thousands of demons - or performed a bunch of stunts on psychologically impaired people.
Like so many exorcism movies, The Rite is about a priest finding his faith, though Håfström attempts to distract the audience from this by reinforcing the question, "are people really possessed by demons?" Unfortunately, taking the psychological tract has three problems: 1) audiences going to exorcism movies want to see real possessions; 2) if you want to do something different, you have to stick to your guns.
The Rite relinquishes the psychological slant midstream, effectively making the point moot (even though the main character continues to question what he's seeing, like when a pregnant woman vomits nails). When all is said and done, The Rite is your typical exorcism movies - though there have been far better exorcism movies.
The main problem with The Rite is that it's boring. Not a whole lot happens throughout, and when it does, it's nothing we haven't seen before. The possessed pregnant girl is pretty creepy, but you can tell Håfström wants his movie to be so much more. It just isn't.
The film's saving grace is its score, which is so overly dramatic it helps cover up the deficiencies of the production. The score is laughably over-the-top at times, and yet it truly does make the movie feel more exciting than it really is.
The acting is OK. O'Donoghue is nothing spectacular, nor is Alice Braga in a smaller role. Anthony Hopkins, of course, dominates every scene he's in, but even he seems like a caricature at times, an actor doing what Anthony Hopkins does best to overcome an otherwise bland production.
The Rite has its moments and isn't a complete waste, but it's an all-around forgettable exorcism movie when compared to what's available. Wait until DVD for this one, or, even better, wait until the next exorcism movie.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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