Title: The Rite
Directed by: Mikael Hafstrom
Starring:Colin O’Donoghue, Anthony Hopkins and Ciaran Hinds
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Horror movies claiming to be inspired by true events, including ‘The Amityville Horror,’ ‘Hostel’ and one of the best films ever made, ‘The Exorcist,’ succeed in part because audiences become frightened that these stories can happen to them. The latest horror movie claiming to be based on a true story, New Line Cinema’s ‘The Rite,’ starring Anthony Hopkins and Colin O’Donoghue, promises to follow in ‘The Exorcist’s footsteps by scaring people with the ancient religious practice. While the movie, which is loosely based on Matt Baglio’s “The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist”, takes an original look on the world of exorcisms, even the presence of the great Hopkins doesn’t fully save the somewhat unintelligent storyline.
‘The Rite’ follows Michael Kovak (played by O’Donoghue) as he enters the seminary in order to escape his father and his mortuary business. While Michael isn’t sure he’s fully committed to the Church and priesthood, it’s the only other career path his father will allow him to follow. Just before graduation, Michael decides not to take his final vows, but one of the priests convinces him to take a three-month exorcism course being offered by the Vatican before he makes his final decision.
Once in Rome, Michael meets a journalist, Angelina (portrayed by Alice Braga), who is also enrolled in the exorcism program. She tells Michael she’s taking the class because the world is interested in exorcisms, and wants to present the Vatican’s take on the subject. She’s also interested in his story after she finds out he was introduced to an unorthodox priest, Father Lucas Trevant (portrayed by Hopkins).
Lucas is in the process of exorcising a 16-year-old pregnant girl, Rosaria (played by Marta Gastini). However, Michael doesn’t think Rosaria is possessed and doesn’t support the exorcism, as he doesn’t believe in the devil or demons, and voices his concern to Lucas. As Lucas tries to prove to Michael the devil does in fact exist, he also tries to help him overcome his own demons.
‘The Rite’ itself is an unorthodox exorcism film, even though New Line Cinema tried to promote the plot-line as Michael and Lucas solely trying to drive the demons out of one specific person. While the two are determined to help Rosaria during part of the film, the story surprisingly acts as a sub-plot to Michael struggling with his faith. Director Mikael Håfström made the right decision in doing this, as the audience instead gets to know the priest performing the exorcism instead of the possessed. The beginning of the film moves at a steady pace, alternatively showing Michael’s struggles with his father’s business and his mother’s death with his skepticism of accepting his faith and devoting his life to his religion.
However, as the story continues, it’s easy to question why Michael stays in the exorcism course as he continues to doubt his religious beliefs. Later scenes begin to feel redundant as Michael continuously argues with Lucas about him not supporting Rosaria’s exorcism. To keep the plot-line moving, Håfström should have added events throughout the film to make Michael subliminally start to belief in what Lucas and he were doing.
Why the role of Angelina was included in ‘The Rite’ is also questionable as well. While Lucas and the other priests constantly push Michael to restore his faith, Angelina just seems to have been included so that he can have someone to vent his frustrations to. While the character seemed promising when she first introduced as an objective character for Michael to talk to discuss his doubts with, as the film continues, she provides no emotional support to him. He seems to be left on his own to figure out where he wants to take his life.
While ‘The Rite’ tries to revive the horror genre, which has been overrun with remakes of slasher films in recent years, the movie doesn’t fully deliver all that it promises. Håfström deserves credit for wanting to show the effects that exorcisms have on new priests; however, Michael’s constant bickering with Lucas hinders on his ability to come to terms with his faith on his own.
Written by: Karnen Benardello