Wednesday, February 02, 2011

‘The Rite’ – Unsettling terror...

If you are looking for fly out in your face scares, then ‘The Rite’ is not the film for you. But if you are looking for unsettling and a deeper kind of creepy scare, Anthony Hopkins, channeling his Lector sneer, fills the bill.

‘The Exorcist’ is one of my favorite movies; I have it in several forms and even went to meet Linda Blair for the anniversary release last winter. What made ‘The Exorcist’ a great horror film, was not pea soup or the twisting head, but he subtle terror that Father Merrin and Father Karras (‘Why do you do this to me Dami?’) endure why battling the demon possessing Regan. It’s not about Regan, but about the faith of Karras. Most modern exorcism films miss that, most focus on being more gross than the last one. That’s not horror; that is simply a shock and awe approach to a film.

While ‘The Rite’ is not as good as ‘The Exorcist’, it doesn’t even come close, it attempts to make a film in the spirit (if you will) of ‘The Exorcist’. It is looking at the true haunting nature of evil and our foundational faith in God.
Colin O’Donoghue is Michael Kovak, a tortured young man trapped in a life he hates. He has two choices in his family, join the family mortuary business or become a priest. Opting to go to the seminary, with the plan of resigning before actually becoming a priest, but still getting the education; Michael is drawn into an exorcism class held at the Vatican.

The script is messy at times, getting Michael to the Vatican didn’t really make much sense (as It turns out, if you don’t become a priest, you have to pay the church back for your education) and it doesn’t have a good ear for dialogue. The scenes only seem to really work when there are exorcists and possessed people in them. Which is all of the scenes that Anthony Hopkins are in.

Hopkins is Father Lucas Trevant, possibly one of the most successful exorcists that church has; Michael is sent to study under Trevant who just happens to be involved in the possession of an unwed pregnant girl. When it is delving into questions of faith or the horrors of evil, ‘The Rite’ does get it right. The sub plots and character development, however, simply fall just a bit flat. Also, the PG-13 rating seemed to hamper the film just a little. Who can forget little, innocent Regan dropping a few ‘F’ bombs while being possessed? The relationship of Michael and Angeline, a reporter played by Alice Braga, doesn’t seem to go anywhere at all and we are left wondering just why she is there in the first place.

Director Mikael Hafstrom seems to understand the pacing and shot angles required to make a good tense movie, however, the script is just not that strong enough to pull it all together. But the scenes that are good are in fact great and they are simply good enough to power over the slower parts. I could not take my eyes or ears off of Hopkins who is perfectly cast here and carries each and every scene he is in. ‘The Rite’ is often very beautifully shot and at times is so atmospheric that you feel the tension in the theater.

This is not a perfect film by far. But is it a good terror tale that will get a few or your neck hairs standing on end. This is a 3 star effort, that with a little tweaking could have been a 4 star horror film!

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