Premiering this weekend on HBO was this January’s supernatural thriller, “The Rite”, starring Chris O’Donoghue and Anthony Hopkins.
“The Rite” is the story of a young man who enters into the seminary without a full desire to become a priest – his thinking being, if he decides to opt out, at least he’ll have a four year degree. When the time comes for him to take his vows, however, and he attempts to leave, it’s recommended that he take a class in exorcism. The church, it’s explained, is establishing an increased number of exorcists in order to address the rising number of reported cases throughout the world.
He’s sent to Rome, where the class is being held. When his skepticism is noted by the head priest, the young man is sent to see a practicing exorcist, played by Anthony Hopkins.
Together, they visit a couple of cases… until Hopkins himself succumbs to possession.
Hopkins enters the movie as a world weary but experienced exorcist. We’re given the impression he’s quite the expert, and that he’s performed countless numbers of them. He professes to have periods when his own faith waivers, but his belief in possession is based on what he’s seen with his own eyes. He and the young candidate for the priesthood attend to a pregnant girl who’s been possessed, and briefly visit a young boy who claims to have been kicked by a mule in his dreams, and the awakens with hoof shaped bruising.
Eventually, Hopkins himself is the target of the devil. He experiences subtle changes at first, but eventually the demon takes over completely and Hopkins is allowed to go into full out scenery chewing mode as the showdown between the possessed man and the almost-priest takes place.
The movie contains all the requisite exorcism tropes… contorting bodies, vile cursing in foreign languages, vomitting, blood. Priests flicking holy water and making the sign of the cross and reading the rites of exorcism repetitiously. The skeptic quasi-priest gives the movie a nice device to speak to the non believers in the audience. He stays a non believer through much of the film, insisting that people’s “possessions” are actually psychological reactions to trauma, etc. That is, until he himself starts experiencing unexplainable occurrences.
And of course, eventually he has to find his own faith in order to defeat the demon… straight out of the Father Karras playbook.
The movie occasionally attempts to get a little more artistic than it’s capable of, and often winds up coming across a bit heavy handed and/or slightly confusing. Subtlety certain isn’t a requisite for exorcism movies, but there were definitely times when I thought the movie could have benefited from dialing it back a bit.
Nonetheless, there’s certainly enough entertainment value within the movie for it to be recommendable.