Full of promise and yet still falling painfully short of being a good film, The Rite is one of those movies that looked really cool when the first trailer came out, but by the time I was finally sitting there watching the thing, the most consistent thought moving through my brain almost immediately became “Is it over yet?” All can agree that if one ever attends a screening and thinks that, then the picture being viewed simply isn’t worth the money paid for the pleasure.
A dually intriguing story of faith vs. doubt—of the ideas of psychological abnormalities vs. genuine demon possession—this moody parable tells of a young priest-in-training who, because of personal failings and uncertainties, has decided to renounce his vows; after some cajoling from an elder mentor, our hero Michael instead agrees to participate in an exorcism training class in Rome. Immediately skeptical of the whole ordeal, Michael is sent by the course proctor to visit a practicing exorcist in the city named Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins in another spell-binding—yet limited by the fallacies of this one’s shaky plot—performance), who in turn introduces Michael to a teenage girl who is presented as being possessed. From this jumping off point, the picture takes several twists and turns—some of which are indeed genuinely eerie—that eventually become cumbersome to the story trying to be told, and which ultimately make the whole viewing go from initially captivating to flat-out silly rather quickly.
If it wasn’t for said rocky storyline, this would have been a memorable film. The acting is pretty good, the score is fitting for this type of movie, and the camera work is phenomenal—that last one being highlighted on multiple occasions by some lingering, long-shot scenes that are really the main meat and potatoes of the emotional aspects of the goings-on. Based off of Matt Baglio’s non-fiction book that chronicles the training of a real-life exorcist in 2005, it’s actually fairly chilling to think about the events portrayed here as actually having taken place; too bad the book is once again night and day better than its visual big-screen reproduction.
Like the others that are on the very short list of specifically-themed demonic possession films, The Rite definitely has something to offer beyond your typical Hollywood horror-schlock; sadly, those few shining moments of brilliance are otherwise overshadowed by a production that tries too hard to be as believable and edgy as The Exorcist… all while naughtily keeping a more crowd-friendly PG-13 rating. For a completely frightening and unforgettable cinematic experience, readers are advised to skip the former and turn the lights down with the latter.
Reviewer’s rating: 2 ½ out of 5 stars