“Don’t expect pea soup or spinning heads,” says Anthony Hopkins, as unconventional exorcist Father Lucas in THE RITE. To make a reference to William Friedkin’s horror classic, THE EXORCIST early on, THE RITE suggests it’s gonna be a new spin on the horror genre. Indeed, the film starts out promisingly, and makes you think it will indeed be something different.
Hopkins’ holy man is so confident banishing demons that he even interrupts a rite of exorcism on an afflicted girl to take a cell phone call. This marks’ Hopkins second time as an exorcist, after BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA.
Film co-stars Colin O’Donoghue–who looks like he was created from the combined DNA of Jim Caviezel and Tom Welling–as Michael, a young priest-in-training who is paired up with Hopkins. O’Donoghue’s story on becoming a priest is the best part of the film–how a cataclysmic incident he feels responsible for leads him to give last rites to a victim and propels the film’s first 20 minutes.
Unfortunately, after this, it becomes a boilerplate, joyless shot by shot rip-off of THE EXORCIST. The young priest loses his father instead of his mother and has dream sequences of him being taken away as he also struggles with a crisis of faith, while the demon taunts him that his father is in Hell–sound familiar?
They are doing an exorcism on a teenage girl when, inexplicably, Hopkins’ priest becomes possessed and the young priest has to drive the demon out.
When Anthony Hopkins becomes demonic, he is silly, not scary. Watching the great actor show he’s a demon by talking like Truman Capote is painful. He grabs the young priest and utters the film’s silliest line: “How ’bout you, Kissy Lips?!?”
Director Mikael Hafstrom, who did the similar ‘loud noises will make it seem scarier’ 1408, starts out strong, with the young priest and a lyrical Rome filled with cats. Sadly, he directs the movie through it’s second half with a tendency to go for schlock shocks. This is the loudest cat you will hear in a movie since the one that sounded like he was wearing snow chains in the remake of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS. The less said about the demonic red-eyed mule and people vomiting up nails, the better. This movie is Exhibit A on why PG-13 horror has such a bad name with fans.
Producers Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson did the far superior EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, so this is a big step back. When you see what last year’s underrated LAST EXORCISM did on 1/100th of RITE’s budget, it’s astounding to see a big budget, big star cast truly doesn’t add up to big scares.
The biggest question in THE RITE is what the hell happened to Anthony Hopkins? 20 years ago, he was Dr. Hannibal Lecter in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS–the first horror film to sweep the Oscars…It was another film that borrowed from EXORCIST–check out the framing of the Hopkins/Foster conversation. For some reason, he’s done a series of terrible movies like FRACTURE, BAD COMPANY and INSTINCT.
Anyone else notice the poster of Anthony Hopkins face in a cross is an exact rip-off of the one of Nic Cage’s face from BRINGING OUT THE DEAD?
- Pat Jankiewicz
Check out Pat Jankiewicz’s article in the latest issue of Wizard.