The Rite (2011)

Michael Kovak is a sceptic, the son of an undertaker who is still reeling from the untimely death of his mother. Desperate to escape his father’s disapproval, Michael enrols in priest school so that he might obtain a free degree and buy himself four years of relative freedom in the process. Blackmailed by his Father Superior, who explains how he might instead be destined for $100,000 of student debt, Michael is soon on his way to Rome in order to fulfil his end of the bargain by attending exorcism class. When in Rome, then, why not track down Anthony Hopkins, liaise with Alice Braga’s roving reporter and seriously piss off one of the seven princes of Hell.

Welcome back Anthony Hopkins, we thought we’d lost you there for a moment. The patron saint of diminishing returns, Hannibal Lecter had lost his snivel long before the requisite prequel, leaving Hopkins to trawl the depths of lesser villains in order to humour his recent typecasting. It’s hardly spoiling anything to reveal that Hopkins’ priest soon strays from the path of righteousness, dropping his cross in the name of plot development, and teams up with everybody’s favourite demon, Baal, for a bit of teenage-friendly scaremongering.

For while it is no exercise in terror, The Rite is a hugely enjoyable and expertly crafted genre movie which takes itself exactly the right amount of seriously. Dispensing with the unintentional laughter and sheer unmanageable quantities of pea soup which plague most exorcism movies, The Rite grounds itself in a reality that has taken enough creative license to deliver the goods. Looking back at The Exorsist it is nigh impossible to imagine just how that generation found it’s kitch exploitation so pertrifying, while last year’s The Last Exorcism wasted so much time tying itself to a true story that the possession itself only served to distract the audience from a story they know to be fraudulant. Instead, a dislocated jaw, a charm bracelet and creepy prophecy are used to maintain a genuinely chilling atmosphere that haunts the movie even through its less successful moments, making the most of religion’s inherent wiggins.

For, however much I might have enjoyed it, The Rite is a few frogs short of a plague – it’s ‘exorcism school’ setting proving inspired but sadly unexplored. You have to miss the simplicity of The Exorcist, even if it has aged about as well as Sylvester Stallone’s face; when one house, four characters and a head-turning parlour trick were all it took to make genre history. Compared to the taut simplicity of Linda Blair’s acclaimed bad day, The Rite is all over the place. Basically two separate movies that flow about as well as a television series devoid of all but the first and last episode. Our hero begins the film saying things like weiner, before suddenly fighting evil with his priestly earnestness.

While, then, The Rite won’t be winning any awards for originality, or headlining any horror festivals, it is still an enormously enjoyable exorcism movie which benefits considerably from the inherent scariness of religion and owes a generous debt to Anthony Hopkins’ experience when it comes to making skin crawl. Easily the best exorcist movie since The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Rite manages to achieve the not incosidetable task of making Christianity, and post-Wolfman Hopkins, cool again. If this movie had been handled with hindsight, it could have made for an intriguing franchise.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

One Response to The Rite (2011)

  1. Pingback: March 2011 – You made me…a period mix? « popcornaddict

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