The Rite

21 Mar

Title: The Rite
Year:
2011
Director:
Mikael Håfström
Writer:
Michael Petroni, suggested by the novel by Matt Baglio
Starring:
Anthony Hopkins, Colin O’Donoghue, Marta Gastini, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Alice Braga, Ciarán Hinds, Toby Jones
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, disturbing thematic material, violence, frightening images, and language including sexual references
Runtime:
114 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
6.2
Rotten Tomatoes:
20%

When I saw the first trailer for The Rite I thought it might prove to be a pretty competent film, a horror flick I could see myself recommending to friends. It had, after all, Anthony Hopkins in the leading role, and he’s always rather riveting no matter the film he’s in. Plus, it was directed by Mikael Håfström, who had done Derailed five years ago, a film that while wasn’t such a critical hit I found myself enjoying quite a bit, and had also done 1408 in 2007 which was just a superb film all-around.

But then I actually got around to seeing the film, and it really wasn’t all that amazing. I mean, Sir Hopkins is really top notch as always, but not even his greatness is enough for one to forget about the other things that aren’t going as well for the film, the pacing is all off and it really isn’t that scary to begin with, and what we’re left is yet another terribly subpar fright film that feels quite boring.

Mr. Hopkins plays Father Lucas, who has performed his fair share of exorcisms, and then there’s Colin O’Donoghue, who plays Michael, a seminarian from the States who’s sent to see Father Lucas do one his exorcisms. And while Mr. Hopkins is great as always, I thought Mr. O’Donoghue wasn’t really up to the task, as not even playing off a master elevated his own performance, which, contrary to what the ads for the film want you to believe, is the real starring performance of the film.

Oh and, by the way, there was an exorcism film last year called The Last Exorcism, which I’ll talk a bit more about later on, but I mention it now because that film also carried a PG-13 rating, and when reviewing that film (I gave it a B) I noted that while I usually think these sort of films really do need that R-rating to scare the crap out of us, that one did well with the PG-13 because it used it to not show us things, which in turned made them scarier. This one is also PG-13, but it tries to show us as much as they can with that, and in the end it’s a display of worn-out genre clichés, and that doesn’t feel all that great.

I’m not going to fail The Rite, but that’s entirely because of Anthony Hopkins, the man is just too damn good, and he alone keeps this one from failing miserably, and actually makes it an engaging ride for a moment or two. But that’s just the thing, The Rite is not engaging for long enough, and a film of this sort has to be able to keep you enthralled for as long as possible. There are a lot of discussions about faith here, and some of them actually work, and even those that don’t are pretty cool to ponder at, but the action actually transpiring in the film isn’t enough to back it up, the build-up and the mood is set for an extremely satisfying ride, and yet we get a pretty dull one.

And while it’s cool to see the exorcism bits, as we are left to think exactly just how much is real and how much is acted up during the process, we have already seen exactly this same topic tackled a year ago in The Last Exorcism, a film that approached it in a much better way and that overall was heaps above this one. But still, the exorcisms are cool to watch here, the current subject of Father Lucas’ infamous practices is a pregnant teen, raped by her father and apparently housing a demonic presence inside of her. This is all fun to watch, like I say, because of Mr. Hopkins and his treatment of his character, he makes Father Lucas pretty captivating to watch, charming, even.

If you’re half smart you’ll be quick to figure out that eventually Father Lucas himself will be apparently possessed by the devil, and we know the man can play evil insanely well, and he does it here, too, to a degree. I say to a degree because Mr. Håfström for a reason decided to make him sound super ominous giving his voice some weird effects, and Mr. Hopkins doesn’t need that, and the director should have entrusted such a capable actor with the duties of scaring us, instead of trying to create an atmosphere with other technical tricks that in the end was quite sucky. And that ultimately cost us a climax that could have concluded the many interesting themes touched upon here in a great manner, as we instead got an ending that feels horribly generic and seriously off-putting.

Grade: C

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