There are few characters more bone-chilling than Hannibal Lector portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins won the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance as Lector in Silence of the Lambs, and the film itself won Best Picture. Since then, Hopkins has been in a number of noteworthy roles, but unfortunately, The Rite doesn’t fall into that category. A perfect example of what makes the demonic horror subgenre stale; The Rite depends on Hopkins’ performance to separate it from its competition. Unfortunately, his role isn’t enough to work as a crutch for this film.
Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue) is put in an awkward situation by his father: choosing between being a priest or a mortician. Finding what he believes to be a loophole, he trains to become a priest while intending to quit at the last minute. His attempt to remain out of a profession he doesn’t belongs in, due to a sense of doubt and sexuality, flops when he learns his scholarship would be voided if he quit. To avoid this he travels to Italy to train to be an exorcist. After starting trouble in his classes by having an opinion, our disenchanted protagonist is sent to visit Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), a priest practicing exorcisms. As the two work together, Michael’s ideas of the supernatural are challenged more and more.
The most noteworthy thing about The Rite is its characters. Hopkins’ part is played well as is expected from the veteran actor, and Michael was a very relatable character, possibly to a fault. As strange as it sounds, the movie’s never-ending attempt to make the audience feel kinship towards Michael makes him all the more shallow. He is an obvious pallet for people to paint themselves on and watch as his faith is slowly restored throughout the film. He is in the priesthood against his will, presents reasonable arguments for his disbelief, and is the first rational character in the film. Once he is seen as a person with reason his perception is contrasted. People will need to have frail beliefs to have them altered by this film.
They would also have to be frail to find it frightening. Though there are instances of well executed suspense, this movie relies mostly on the quite to loud, and body morphing scare tactics. These aren’t ineffective in startling the audience, but when a cat jumping at a window and the possessed having their bodies contorted are the more effective moments, there is a problem. Possession films should do the body contorting less anyway; it just plays to the fact that they are inferior to the original The Exorcist.
As trite as the film is, it could have been considerably worse. Hopkins puts on a show that can be appreciated, and the more faithful viewers will have their perspectives reinforced. Other people, looking for more than an experienced lead and
religious reinforcement will find themselves disappointed with the overbearing moral and clichés. The Rite
should have focused more on creating tension rather than reinforcing its theme to a superfluous level.
A thriller centered on a disillusioned American seminary student who attends exorcism school at the Vatican, and his encounter with demonic forces.