The Rite
Director: Mikael Håfström

Cast: Colin O’Donoghue, Anthony Hopkins and Ciarán Hinds
Review by Brian M. Sammons

It must be hard to make movies about demonic possession. No other sub-genre of horror has such a long, dark shadow looming over it. There are a ton of zombie movies out there, and while watching them, you don’t always think back to the first and the best: Night Of The Living Dead. There are a gaggle of vampire flicks, but not all of them have the specter of Dracula haunting them. Yet any movie about demonic possession made after 1973 has the masterful The Exorcist eclipsing them to some degree or another. Perhaps that’s because most seem content to ape that milestone movie in more than one way. But even those that try to do their own thing, like The Last Exorcism, you can still see the shadow of little Regan MacNeil spinning her head 360 and vomiting out the green stuff.

Does this latest “Satan inside you” film, backed by the heavy acting guns of Anthony Hopkins, buck the trend and firmly establish its own, unique stamp on the exorcism flicks?

Sadly, no. The movie’s not horrible, and watching Hopkins chew through the scenery is always entertaining if nothing else, but The Rite brings absolutely nothing to the new table. Really, not one thing done here hasn’t already been done before in other films. Not that they were always done better in those previous movies than what happens in The Rite, but an old, tired magic trick, no matter how good looking, is still old and tired. But let’s give the devil his due and get to the story.

A young priest having a crisis of faith (is there any other kind of young priests in movies?) is sent to Rome by his mentor and friend and enrolled in the booming exorcism school in an attempt to keep him wearing the collar. Even there, literally surrounded by Catholic Church and learning to do combat against the arch fiend, young Michael (oh, subtle – just wait to you meet his gal pal Angeline) is still leaning towards team non-believer. So Professor X-orcist sends Michael to the baldest, most legendary daemon butt-kicker of all time, Father Lucas Trevant, played by Anthony Hopkins. After watching Father Trevant in action a couple of times Michael is still not convinced, even after seeing a young girl speak in tongues, puke out nails, and act all slutty. Not even a visit from a red-eyed demonic donkey (no, really) completely convinces him. Hmm, demonic donkeys, maybe that is something unique? Well, sort of. I mean, Drag Me To Hell did have a demonic goat.

Now what comes next may dip into spoiler territory a bit, but only if you’ve never heard anything at all about this movie, didn’t see the trailer, or just looked the DVD cover. Really, if this plot twist was supposed to be a secret, the words “epic fail” doesn’t even come close, but far be it from me to ruin anything out of hand so…

SPOILER SPACE

The best thing in The Rite is when Anthony Hopkins’ priest character becomes possessed. That’s when Mr. Hopkins turns the scenery mulching machine that is his considerable talent into overdrive and starts having fun with the rather dull, plodding picture. Folks, this is what you came here to see and it is a lot of fun. Sadly it’s not even the slightest bit scary, but it is Hopkins acting crazy and badass, so what’s not to love? Well how about the fact that even this part of the film isn’t perfect, like when demo-Hopkins calls Michael “kissy lips” to insult him, which is just plain silly. Oh and I can’t forget the bad one-two-three punch of the whole thing coming too late in the film, not lasting long enough, and then having this big scary demon getting dispelled far too easily by wet-behind-the-ears-not-really-a-priest Michael. That said, I’m always a sucker for Anthony Hopkins doing his crazy bit.

The disc(s) for this film are as mixed a bag as the movie itself. The good news is that it’s a Blu-ray, DVD, and digital download combo pack, so if you are a fan of this film you can watch the hell out of it in any way you want. As for the Blu-ray, the audio and video quality is both topnotch. However the extras are on the pretty disappointing side. I guess because this movie was based on “true events,” as it proudly proclaims over the title, the only extras here are some stuff on the priest and exorcism school that inspired this story. That’s fine if you believe in demonic possession and exorcisms, but if you’re just a horror movie fan like me, well you’ll be left with only a brief alternate ending that wasn’t all that thrilling as the only extra goodies pertaining to the movie.

I really can’t recommend The Rite, but like I said earlier, it’s not horrible, so I won’t completely dissuade you from it either. If you’re a fan of Satan joyriding around inside of folks flicks, then here’s another one for your collection.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: http://brian_sammons.webs.com/ and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.

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