I think everybody loves the idea of sitting around a campfire, a dark living room or driving at night in the car and listening to a spooky story. We have been trying to entertain one another since the first primitive man came back from the hunt and shared his tale of the day with the rest of the tribe. I suspect that the first ghost story told was by the next guy, who in trying to one up the hunter made his story more supernatural in nature and more interesting as a result. Ghost stories and horror pull us in because they show something that we would not want to encounter in real life but don’t mind living through vicariously. Movies have attempted to frighten audiences from the beginning. One of the most vivid images that people have of silent films is Max Schrek in Nosferatu walking out of the shadows and revealing the horror of a vampire. Universal Studios was built by the monsters they showed in their films. Monsters are not the only kind of horror that early film makers tried to exploit. Psychological terror is a subject of many early films. It was natural that at some point the process of telling the stories would become part of the story itself. That’s where anthology films began to show up and up the ante with each succeeding tale. “Dead of Night” is maybe the first well know horror anthology and it is a “Movie I Want Everyone to See”.
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.