Director – Mikael Hafstrom
Cast – Colin O’Donoghue, Anthony Hopkins, Alice Braga, Ciarán Hinds, Toby Jones, Rutger Hauer, Marta Gastini, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Arianna Veronesi, Andrea Calligari, Chris Marquette, Torrey DeVitto, Ben Cheetham
Release Year – 2011
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I was not particularly looking forward to The Rite, but given I was on a double date with nothing but horror fans such as myself who wanted a dose of big-screen horror, The Rite was our choice by default. Exorcism films have always had my devout attention due to my religious upbringing, and while I am not a Catholic by any means I do enjoy watching the men of God battling the devil and his minions. The Rite offers a storyline somewhat reminiscent of that used in The Last Exorcism, but thanks to its own unique elements thrown in it stands as a film on its own, but a film that fails to deliver strongly in any of its positive ideas, resulting in just a mediocre “OK” watch in the end.
Colin O’Donoghue stars as Michael Kovak, a young American priest who due to his lack of fundamental beliefs is sent to an exorcism school to prove to him that God and the Devil are real. The school does little to sway Colin’s skepticism, but that is subject to change when he is assigned to shadow Father Lucas Trevant(Anthony Hopkins; The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Red Dragon), an unorthodox exorcist who has performed thousands of exorcisms. Lucas’ exorcisms do little to settle Colin’s disbelief, but when the demonic powers that be aim their sites on Colin he suffers a rude awakening into the true power the Devil possesses, whether you believe in him or not.
The storyline for The Rite is what really intrigued me, and made the already interesting (to me) exorcism element more appealing by throwing in a priest battling with his faith and then forced to rely on his faith to see him through the demonic torment he is soon subjected to. We see this idea used somewhat in The Last Exorcism, except the priest in this film was of a serious nature, not comedic like in the slightly-disappointing film just mentioned. Colin was used fairly well in delivering the conflict involved, and while I expected him to be the usual post-The Silence of the Lambs eye-candy Anthony Hopkins’ character was written well for the actor that he is, anyone else in such a role may not have been able to sell the character without superb writing. As far as characters go I was a little disappointd in the usage of investigative reporter Angeline(Alice Braga; Predators, I Am Legend). I expected more from her character, especially her being a “passionate” “investigative reporter”, but instead she was underused and not written to seem very passionate about what she was doing. The rest of my gripes against the story have to do with what little chills were written into the film. I understand that this flick is at times more drama than horror, but given that this is exorcism horror I expected not only more chills but more gutsy scenes as well. Instead we were given a watered down horror film most likely aimed at achieving what PG-13 films are made to achieve…money.
Director Mikael Hafstrom(1408) did a great job selling the film visually, with awesome sets and superb cinematography. His execution of the horror presented was top-notch, with only the film’s overall lack of horror the only thing holding him back from delivering a truly awesome horror experience. The performances from his actors were so-so, with Anthony Hopkins giving his usual stellar performance and lead Colin O’Donoghue coming off a bit brash and unlikable, as well as the underused Alice Braga.
Overall, The Rite gives us a unique take on the exorcism sub-genre with its positive overall storyline, but poor writing consisting of unlikable characters, underused characters, and a heavy lack of good chills kept this from anything great despite Mikael Hafstrom giving us his positive direction.