Review 43: The Rite (3.5/5)

The Rite

Directed by Mikael Håfström

Starring Colin O’Donaghue, Anthony Hopkins, Alice Braga, Ciarán Hinds

Released on January 28, 2011

Running time 1h 54m

Rated PG-13

Genre: Horror, Religious

Finally we have a PG-13 horror flick that doesn’t just not commit the Darkness Falls sin of being too short, but it ignores the fact that Darkness Falls ever existed, coming out to just short of two hours.

Though The Rite isn’t fantastic, I can clearly tell that it’s trying. It’s taking its subject material – faith – seriously, and it’s at least trying to give us a message.

The story, unfortunately, is rather cliché. It concerns a doubting, faith-lacking priest named Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donaghue) who is trying to find himself through going to the Vatican and learning to become an exorcist. He is disillusioned with the Vatican-sponsored classes, so his teacher, Father Xavier (Ciarán Hinds), sends him to meet and work under a renowned Welsh Jesuit exorcist, Father Lucas Trevant (Anthony Hopkins), whose methods are unorthodox, but nonetheless get results. Kovak meets the journalist and pointless love interest Angelina (Alice Braga), who is writing an article based on exorcism. As Kovak works with Father Lucas and one of his patients, Rosaria, he witnesses strange preternatural activity surrounding the exorcistic treatment. Contrary to popular belief, actually exorcising a demon can take months, even years, requiring multiple appointments. Apparently Rosaria was raped by her father, leading to her pregnancy and demonic possession. After the second appointment witnessed by Kovak, Rosaria’s condition worsens and she is placed in the hospital. That night, she miscarries, and both her and the baby die. Father Lucas is completely disheartened, and now that it has broken down all his defenses, the demon who possessed Rosaria possesses Father Lucas. Kovak and Angelina discover this, and, with Father Xavier out of town, Michael is forced to perform the exorcism on Father Lucas on his own. And the demon is just as evil as it ever was. It knows exactly what to say to get under your skin. It knows your secrets. It knows what you fear. It knows all your sins. And it knows exactly how to use its knowledge to its advantage. Ultimately, after a long, hard, verbal and spiritual battle, Kovak regains his faith and forces the demon to reveal its name: Baal (pronounced “ball”, not “bale”). Upon revealing its name, Baal is weakened, and promptly exorcised. Father Lucas is in good shape in the days afterward, and Kovak heads back home and ultimately realizes his true calling as a priest.

I expected this to fall apart compared to 2010’s The Last Exorcism. I expected it to completely die in the third act. I expected something like the neon red baby.

But this film redeems itself entirely on the performance of Anthony Hopkins. I try to take him being a good guy with a grain of salt, considering that he used to be Hannibal Lecter (Lecktor?). But he gives it his all, and singlehandedly saves the movie from being just another below average demonic possession flick. And his demonic makeup is fantastically terrifying. I think that Hopkins as an actor singlehandedly saved The Wolfman from being absolutely terrible.

The acting, overall, is decent. Colin O’Donaghue does as well as he can.

I applaud the movie for not relying on over-the-top gore or crazy special effects.

I applaud the very dark and gloomy atmosphere. Especially considering that this is the Vatican.

I applaud the proper execution of the plot device known as the “Slow Build”.

While you certainly won’t be watching The Exorcist, or The Exorcism of Emily Rose, or even The Last Exorcism for that matter, you will indeed get what you paid for.

Did you know that Anthony Hopkins was able to conquer his alcoholism through his belief in God?

Final verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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