Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Genre: Drama, Horror
Opens locally in Detroit on Friday, January 28th, 2011, Rated R
Run Time: 1 hour, 54 minutes
Starring: Colin O'Donoghue, Anthony Hopkins, Alice Braga, Ciaran Hinds
Directed by Mikael Hafstrom
There’s a bit of devil inside of us all, apparently in some more literally than others. “The Rite” is based on real people but with a fictional plot, dealing with exorcisms, demons, faith and God. It nearly gets nothing rite…er, right.
The Plot. Colin O’Donoghue plays Michael Kovak, a young man who isn’t sure what he wants to do with his life. He had an odd upbringing as the son of a mortician, and always assumed he’d either follow in his father’s footsteps, or enter a life in the clergy. He has deep-rooted faith issues, so although he’s not a great candidate for priesthood, he is recommended into a little known program within the Vatican: to learn the art of exorcism, or ridding possessed bodies from spiritual demons. It is here where he meets Father Lucas, an unconventional priest who specializes in such exercises.
Do You Believe? The first half of the film is a slow, overly dramatic debate of faith vs. science. On one hand, you have Father Lucas who knows first-hand that these demons exist…he wrestles with a few of his own, actually. Michael on the other hand, suspects each victim of either faking their symptoms, or showing some signs of mental insanity. He has a logical response to each occurrence, until slowly he begins not being able to explain.
By the time we get to the second half of the film, I was already emotionally checked out of the film, due not only to the slow pace but also the total lack of any real characters on screen…but I was ready for a good horror flick, or at the very least, to be engaged in a religious psycho-thriller. I instead got a lot of close-ups of veins popping out of people’s faces, twitching and contorting about, and a musical score that let me know that what was happening was supposed to be very scary. Anthony Hopkins chews up each scene, especially late in the film where he does his best Hannibal-Lecter-on-the-toilet impression.
Leap of Faith. The problem with the film is that the religious debate doesn’t really lead anywhere, well, logical. And although we see demon after demon possessing random people, there is never much at stake in the grand scheme of things. Even the demons themselves don’t seem intent on killing…just scaring the holy hell out of people and maybe pinning them against the wall, showing them their demon grin. I didn’t even understand some of the rules within the film...as more and more characters become possessed along the way, I wondered of demon-itis was contagious, like some kind of incurable spiritual gonorrhea.
The crowd I saw the film with laughed at many of the climactic scenes meant to be scary. Maybe it is the limitations of the PG-13 rating…a film dealing with exorcisms surely belongs in R-rated territory. But when taken as a whole, the movie just isn’t effective as an intelligent debate on one’s faith, nor as a popcorn thriller.
There is a lot wrong with “The Rite”, and not much left to say.
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