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Monday, March 11, 2013

Horror Movie Quick Review: The Rite (2011)

Overall: B

Directed by:
Mikael Håfström

Anthony Hopkins
Colin O’Donoghue

I liked this one pretty well, but at the same time it didn’t feel like it did anything new.

The basic plot is that Michael (Colin O’Donoghue) begins training in seminary. Having a crisis of faith, he goes to Italy as a last attempt to renew his belief in God, and begins studying with Father Lucas Trevant (Anthony Hopkins), supposedly an exorcist. Michael doesn’t believe that demonic possession is real, and he still questions his faith. But then Father Trevant is possessed, and Michael is forced to take on the role of exorcist.

It’s a movie that is pretty good at what it does, and is well acted. But it also feels like it followed the recipe for making a movie about demonic possession and exorcism to the letter. There’s the main character having a moral crisis over his beliefs and whether or not he really has a vocation, there’s the demon that causes the possessed person to speak in tongues and talk about how the main character’s dead family is rotting/burning in hell, the demon is exorcised, and the main character finds his faith. Hooray!

If you like that type of movie, this one will probably not disappoint you. But if you’re looking for something new and different, this doesn’t really deliver.


  1. This is actually one of my favorite exorcism movies in the last several years. One of the few horror movies I've talked Kass into seeing at the theatre, and she enjoyed this one (hello, hot priests).

    What I like about this is that Michael isn't exactly having a crisis of faith because he really doesn't have any to start with. He's looking at a life of either becoming a mortician like his father, whom he watched and assisted all of his life, including with his dead mother. Or he 'has' to become a priest like other members of his family. He doesn't want either -- he wants to be a psychiatrist because he legitimately believes in helping people that way. But his father wouldn't pay for college to do that (since he should either be a mortician or priest), and he's found the way to pay for college to become a psychiatrist...by being a seminary student. It was always his intention to withdraw right before he had to take his vows so that he'd have the degree without having to become a priest. I think what's interesting is that he started out with no faith and attempting to use the seminary system to achieve his goals without eventually having to give back (by becoming a priest).

    One of the parts that I would have liked to know more about was the little boy. Father Lucas' interaction with him caught my attention, especially because it seemed obvious (to Michael) that Lucas had taken the frog to the boy's play and pretended to pull it out of the pillow. Clearly, the boy was having an issue with possession (or second sight or something), but why would Lucas feel the need to take the frog from home to put it there?

    I think there was quite a bit that could have been explored that would have freshened up the movie, but I'm sure with time constraint and audience attention span, they didn't. I would have liked to see Michael continue with psychiatry, but that would have spoiled the "becomes a priest" ending. They could have found a way to work with faith -and- psychiatry because Michael would have been the perfect person at that point to be able to determine if someone was having a psychological issue or if it was a true case of possession.

    1. I liked the movie quite a bit, probably more than any of the other exorcism film I've seen recently. It still came across to me as him trying to find his faith, though it's true that it was a bit less "I used to believe and now I'm unsure" the way the plotline usually goes.
      I agree that they could have balanced the psychiatry/faith angles a little more. It seems like most movies want to come really firmly down in one camp or the other; either OMG IT'S TOTALLY DEMONS AND SCIENCE IS POWERLESS TO INTERVENE or OMG DEMONS DON'T EXIST AND SUPERSTITIONS ARE SILLY. I wish this movie had taken advantage of the things that could have made it stand out as unique, but instead it seemed pretty content to stick to the formula. That may have been wise financially; as you say, people have short attention spans, and don't like things that are too different from expectations. But it kept the film from really leaving much of a lasting impression for me outside of "well... that was pretty good."