The Rite (2011)

Directed by Mikael Hafstrom
Written by Michael Petroni

Religion and horror are two subjects that create an interesting backdrop for a film. The most obvious connection of these two things has been the exorcist film, beginning with the one, the only, the original: The Exorcist. All exorcism films seem to be “based on a true story,” or in the case of The Rite, “inspired by true events.”

This “true event” centers around a twenty something young man named Michael (Colin O’Donoghue), who is struggling with the direction of his life and his faith. The son of a mortician, he finds himself unhappy with the family business, so he decides to go to seminary to become a priest. But after four years of studying, Michael deems himself, and his faith, unfit for priesthood. Following a grim first hand look at death and upon the urging of his Father Superior, however, Michael flies off to The Vatican in Rome for two months of exorcist training.

With his faith still wavering, Michael meets Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), who is a veteran exorcist that believes he can show Michael the proof necessary to convert such a skeptic. While tagging along, Michael is approached by a journalist, Angeline (Alice Braga), who is writing a story on the subject. With these new colleagues at his side, Michael encounters some interesting events and must come to terms with his past and, ultimately, his future in the demonic possession ousting profession.

The Rite presents a refreshingly new look at the exorcism game. Taking a young, potential priest and throwing him into the realms of demons may not be unfamiliar, but creating an intriguing back story for that character is, not to mention the idea of a two month training course at The Vatican. The film treats exorcism as something much more commonplace and ordinary than any other film of the genre.

The film also takes its time in developing the character of Michael, who is played convincingly by newcomer O’Donoghue. And at his side is Academy Award Winner Anthony Hopkins, who turns Father Lucas into a very Hannibal Lecter-ish character, smart and creepy.

What became interesting during the third act, or perhaps uninteresting, however, was the character of Angeline, who it is apparent was written simply for the fact that the film needed a female character. The journalist presents nothing new or important to the proceedings.

Also disappointing was the laziness of the filmmakers in the last third of the film. Working with a different, interesting premise, director Mikael Håfström and screenwriter Michael Petroni resort to a familiar conclusion. What is worse is they insult the audience by not trusting them to remember what happened earlier in the film, providing then with convenient flashbacks which say, “So in case you missed it, here is what we are talking about.”

For those expecting a scary movie, you will be left with only a few jump scares and a decent, ominous mood set by the score of the film. The Rite is a film that has a lot going for it, yet never fully comes together. If you are looking for something that does not take a great deal of thought and still delivers a fair bit of entertainment, The Rite may be the film for you. If you are looking for something different, then I suggest you do so.

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