Anyone ready to believe this 112 minute exorcism themed flick is going to be different than the others? Hear that? Neither do I. This is one of the faults of The Rite. For the most part, it is fairly predictable and lacks innovation within the characters.
Now there are other faults as well. Especially with the continuity of our lead character. Fortunately, this flick has a savior and this entity comes in the form of Anthony Hopkins. Just as Michael Jordan has carried the Chicago Bulls to championships, Hopkins carries the cinematic load and miraculously brings this up to a satisfactory ranking within the subgenre.
Michael Kovack (Colin O’Donoghue) is the son of an undertaker (Rutger Hauer needing something to do apparently). Together they continue the family business. A business Michael has grown tired of. Next best option, go become a priest (Duh). The story picks up when Michael is nearly finished with seminary school. Then all of a sudden he begins to doubt the existence of God. A concerned professor in Father Matthew (Toby Jones) urges Michael not to throw away his beliefs so haphazardly. He encourages him to explore the occupation of being an exorcist before deciding on his future. Michael reluctantly agrees and he’s off to Rome to study at the Vatican.
Under the tutelage of Father Xavier (Ciaran Hinds) Michael further questions the church’s teachings on whether people are truly possessed by demons. He believes they just need to log some serious time on a therapist’s couch. Father Xavier asks Michael to speak with a priest who is considered the Mr. Miyagi of exorcist training in Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins). From there, the borderline eccentric Father Lucas performs treatments on the suspected possessed while Michael shadows him. Even with all the contorting and bone crunching of patients, along with assorted dialects coming out of their mouths, Michael still keeps to his atheists ways. But of course, there is a challenge of faith on the horizon.
If you have seen any of The Exorcist sequels, prequels and/or remakes, the pattern found here is about the same. Difference with this one, the tone of the story manages to keep a fairly tense atmosphere the entire way through. There is a natural attraction to where these stories are going to lead to. The damning part of that feeling is they all eventually lead to the same place. Take this as a mild spoiler warning, but for a brief moment, the audience will think that evil could win for once. As in truly win. Not some clichéd wink at the camera by a surviving victim. But to no avail, the tease was just a tease. Actually, it was a decent tease, much like a lap dance. It’s enjoyable and you’re glad you sat through it. Let’s be honest though, there is always some frustration in that scenario, and the audience will have to deal with that feeling here as well.
Mentioned above was how Anthony Hopkins played savior. He was tremendous in his role that required a wide-range of emotions. Initially, one may think he was out of place being in this type of flick. And perhaps he was in another world in a few scenes. Bottom line though, the guy embraced the character and was so focused in delivering one of the more consistent performance these green eyes have ever seen in an exorcism themed flick.
In contrast, the way the script handled the Michael Kovack character was the ultimate clichéd bullsh*t. First off, the storyline of his character is littered with development holes. Which then hampers the ending of the piece. O’Donoghue’s acting is barely serviceable and the direction of his role is too obvious. I was half-expecting the voices from the Mystery Science Theater television show to loop in and begin making fun of the character. That’s how pathetic his role was handled.
Overall, The Rite is a tense piece that will get a few cheap jumps out of the audience by wisely placing sound effects in all the appropriate spots. The script flashes instances where it could have enhanced the creativity of the stale exorcist lore. For whatever reason, the lack of belief in trying something new, was not part of the master plan. If one has NOT taken in a bunch of these flicks, this one will draw you in. As for veterans of this realm, it’s a leap of faith whether this can satisfy your mental-horror hunger.
And can we stop introducing every sci-fi and/or horror flick with the “Based on true events” jargon! Almost as bad as Eli Roth begging for audiences to like The Last Exorcism. (You’re better than that Eli).
RATING: 3 out of 5