The Rite

The Rite


Reviewed by: David Graham

Sir Anthony Hopkins thoroughly embarrasses himself in a flaccid ripoff of The Exorcist that struggles to raise even unintentional titters. Mikael Håfström didn't exactly set the world of horror alight with his Stephen King adaptation 1408, but that at least showed he was fearless with the absurd and could keep a flick rolling at a brisk pace. Working here 'from facts', Håfström is at pains for us to take his yarn seriously, but he can't decide between a somber character-driven piece and letting rip with the demonic possession nonsense. In the end, his film disappoints in both regards.

Things start promisingly enough, with a creepy embalming credit sequence introducing us to disillusioned hero Michael. Entering seminary school in order to get a free degree and avoid taking over his father's mortuary business into the bargain, Colin O'Donoghue etches his character's crisis of faith with care in these early scenes. Effective support from Rutger Hauer as his shattered father and Toby Jones' manipulative priest sets up his agreement to take an exorcism course in Rome. There, his doubting nature leads him into the sphere of Father Lucas, a practicing exorcist for whom 'the rite' is all in a day's work. An epidemic of diabolical possession seems to be sweeping the city, with Michael's rationalistic psycho-analyzing tested by a pregnant teen with a nasty habit of regurgitating rusty nails.

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The build-up to these scenes is fine, with Michael's studies throwing up some perturbing 'evidence' and Lucas explaining his intriguing methodology in anticipation of us finally seeing him in action. However, when the confrontations begin, it becomes clear that The Rite isn't fit to lick the pea-soup stained boots of Friedkin's 40-year-old classic. Any crucifix-frigging expectations should be nailed to the cross; scraping nails and scratching heads are about as scary as this film gets, and these are two activities its audience will find themselves regularly indulging in.

Hopkins prattles and O'Donoghue simpers while their charge writhes around, but it's all been done before and better, the demons in this film failing even to furnish us with some memorable obscenity. 'Kissylips' just doesn't cut it in comparison to Linda Blair's decrying of dead mothers as infernal fellaters.

The film's lack of frights might not be so problematic if the pace was brisk and the performances were enjoyable, but Håfström constantly bogs the plot down in monotonous melodrama even as Hopkins turns up the heat on the ham. The imperious Father injects some vitriol into his early scenes, but as he is called upon to go ever further over the top, his performance enters the realm of farce.

After the unfathomable horror of his topless scene, the most frightening thing about him is that he seems to only be wearing a dressing gown and hat in public, his bits very nearly peeking out as he strides away from the film's one shocking moment. This scene gets you excited for more madness to come, but just as you've got over feeling bad for enjoying the image of a priest backhanding a child in public, the film is content to repeat previous scenes in exactly the same locations ad nauseum until it's finally, thankfully, all over. Two hours later. An unnecessary epilogue merely prolongs the agony, the final frames' attempts at poignancy falling flat, leaving The Rite the sort of film no one in their right mind should pay to see.

Reviewed on: 11 Mar 2011
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The Rite packshot
A student visiting Italy to learn how to conduct an exorcism encounters something unexpected.
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Director: Mikael Håfström

Writer: Michael Petroni, based on the book by Matt Baglio.

Starring: Colin O'Donoghue, Anthony Hopkins, Ciarán Hinds, Alice Braga, Rutger Hauer

Year: 2011

Runtime: 114 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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