The Rite: Movie Review

The Rite Movie Review
Review by Mike Pickle, MoreHorror.com

I should begin by saying that I was biased when entering into the theater to view The Rite. I'm always a little suspect of blockbuster, PG-13 Horror (The Rite was #1 at the Box Office last weekend). I was also suspect of Sir Anthony Hopkins when I heard an interview where he indicated that he said "no" to The Rite at first. He had done the Horror thing and didn't want to go back to it. That's kind of insulting to a Horror fan. I don't even consider Silence of the Lambs a Horror film and he rode the Hannibal Lecter wave through two mediocre sequels and he snubs Horror? Well Mr. Hopkins you shattered my preconceptions and made a film that is both commercially appealing and deeply satisfying. Director Mikael Håfström, who also directed the superb Stephen King-inspired Horror thriller "1408" (also PG-13), has taken some top notch actors and starkly gorgeous locations and crafted a pristine and deliciously spooky demonic possession thriller.

If you follow my reviews you may know that I usually like the films I watch more than dislike them. Partly because I research and carefully choose the films I watch and partly because I allow myself to get invested in a film no matter what kind it is. My job as a reviewer is to guess whether you, the reader, will enjoy a film the way I did. This is why I struggle to find the bad in things I like and the good in things I don't. The Rite is one of those films that I really enjoyed, but it felt so personal to me that I couldn't decide whether most of MoreHorror's readers would agree with me. It's because of this that I struggle to properly explain why this film worked so well for me. I bought into the drama. Only upon seeing it can you determine whether you will buy into it or not. Because if you don't, you are not likely to enjoy it as much as I did. Read on and decide for yourself.

The Rite opens with the words "Inspired by true events" which we all know is just a tool to pull you into the story. While it may be true events; it's common knowledge that Hollywood takes a great deal of liberties in exaggerating for dramatic effect. We see Mortician, Michael Kovak (played by the dashing, square-jawed male lead, Colin O'Donoghue) preparing a dead body for burial. He and his father (played by the great Rutger Hauer in a subdued, but brilliant performance) run a father and son mortuary. Michael is not happy and is haunted by visions of his dead mother.

In one of the strangest means of escape I've ever seen; Michael decides to go to Seminary School to learn to be a priest. His heart is clearly not in it, but is motivated by family expectations and a need for experimentation. Four years later he decides he's going to drop out. He doesn't hide the fact that he is a skeptic and a non-believer and lacks the faith to become a priest. One Priest sees a lot of potential in him and doesn't want to let him go. He urges him to go to Rome to study to be an Exorcist. A bizarre concept for a man without faith, but he decides to go. (After some convincing arguments from the Priest including veiled threats to make him pay full price for tuition).

While in exorcism class; Michael quickly becomes a troublesome student with lots of pesky questions and independent thought. This is when the teacher sends him to Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins) insisting that after visiting him, he will believe. Michael begins visiting Father Lucas in his home that is a beautifully run-down old church and attends his exorcisms that he performs on a regular basis. Michael holds on to his skepticism for dear life and begins accusing Father Lucas of being a trickster who feeds these people's delusions and insists that his clients need a Psychiatrist, not an Exorcist. Things grow increasingly more bizarre as the demons prove to be real and set their sites on Michael as well as Father Lucas. The demonic tension builds until the grand and impassioned climax.

While I highly enjoyed this film it did have a Hollywood gloss to it. A gloss of a dramatic and consuming musical score, beautiful shots and fairly subtle, but highly polished special effects. The many attempts to get inside your head are foiled by this gloss, but certain scenes cause you to let your guard down and let it in with genuinely stirring results. In these scenes I suddenly felt nervous. Not scared, but nervous. Moments like this is what made me wonder if it was only me who would be affected like this.

Clocking in at about 2 hours, this film felt more like half that. Much like an Exorcism itself; it twists your expectations and burrows it's way into your consciousness until the stirring climax when you finally either give in or turn your back on it entirely. I gave in.

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