Posted December 28, 2010 by Marcia Degia - Publisher in DVD/Blu-ray

Rite, The

When The Exorcist was released in 1973, it explored its own concept so fully and so effectively that it set an impossibly high benchmark for subsequent exorcism movies –

When The Exorcist was
released in 1973, it explored its own concept so fully and so effectively that
it set an impossibly high benchmark for subsequent exorcism movies – some might say, it automatically rendered them
pointless. And yet, they still remain a popular offshoot of the horror genre.

The Rite is certainly not the
film to challenge The Exorcist to the title of best exorcism movie. Indeed, it
feels like most of the same story elements and themes are lifted directly
from its predecessor
; and yet,
thanks to strong performances from the lead actors and some genuinely chilling
moments, it is one of the more worthy efforts.

The movie follows seminary
student Michael Kovak (O’Donaghue), who, despite studying for several years to
become a priest, is clearly cynical of the Catholic beliefs and has no
intention of completing his studies. However, his tutor sends him to study
exorcism at the Vatican and it is here that he meets Father Lucas (Hopkins), a
renowned priest who is unorthodox in his methods
but claims to have successfully performed thousands
of exorcisms.

Initially, Michael observes
Father Lucas’ practices with a great deal of scepticism, challenging him for
being misguided and for deceiving those that come to him for help, and
believing that the ‘possessed’ individuals actually require psychiatric help.
However, the more time Kovak spends observing these exorcisms, the more he
starts to see terrifying behaviour that seems to suggest these exorcisms are
real after all
, and that Father
Lucas is actually fighting evil demons that taunt and berate him from within
the bodies of their victims.

The film is introduced with
the obligatory “Inspired by true events” claim before telling a story that slowly
seems to lose all interest in convincing its audience of factual accuracy until
it descends into a ludicrous final third consisting of creepy special
effects and unmistakably supernatural mayhem
. It is this climactic part of the film, however, where the film really
comes alive, as a torturous battle of wills provides a gripping spectacle that
just about makes up for the rest of the film’s aimless meditation on Kovak’s
religious dilemma.

It is also during these
moments that Hopkins becomes compelling to watch. As the troubled priest, he
spends most of the film lazily delivering his lines like he can barely
remember the script
but, during the
final act, he becomes energised and animated. Even one moment, which one hopes
is the result of improvisation, in which Father Lucas mocks the younger priest
by saying “Cool, awesome, whatever…dude!” followed by a rant in a silly welsh voice,
is far more enjoyable than the stoic pondering that goes before it.

Throughout the film, at
least until the end, the special effects are generally understated, subtly
changing the colouring in the faces of the supposedly possessed victims to make
for a deftly sinister effect
. It is,
thankfully, used sparingly too so at no point does any sign of demonic
behaviour overshadow the more serious themes of the religious implications.

Unfortunately, this is the
main problem of the film: while the enjoyable scenes let rip with scares and
full-blown eerie effects, they do ultimately undermine all of Kovak’s
previous contemplation of his own doubts
, making them seem simplistic overall. Tied in with this is a family
back story that is hinted at several times throughout the film but is never
explored fully enough for it to seem anything less than confused.

And as the film ends on a
tone that completely betrays the terror and chaos seen just before it, it seems
as though director Mikael Håfström genuinely believes that he has made an
commendable meditation on the nature of good vs evil, even though his audience will simply leave cinemas wishing their had been more spooky stuff.

To Buy The Rite On DVD Click Here Or On Blu-Ray Click Here

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia has worked in the media industry for more than 10 years. She was previously Acting Managing Editor of Homes and Gardens magazine, Publishing Editor at Macmillan Publishers and Editor of Pride Magazine. Marcia, who has a Masters degree in Screenwriting, has also been involved in many broadcast projects. Among other things, she was the devisor of the documentary series Secret Suburbia for Living TV.