The Rite (2011)
“You can only defeat it when you believe.”
The Rite (2011)
Director: Mikael Håfström
Cast: Colin O’Donoghue, Anthony Hopkins, Ciarán Hinds
Synopsis: An American seminary student travels to Italy to take an exorcism course.
Demonic possession must be the second most over-populated horror sub-genre after the stalk-and-slash, which means anyone deciding to add yet another entry has to have either conjured up something unique or found a new way to spice up the over-familiar ingredients already in the mix. Sadly, Mikael Hafstrom, who directed the immeasurably superior horror flick 1408 (2007), delivers on neither score, and Anthony Hopkins’ (The Elephant Man, Alexander) Welsh Jesuit priest Father Lucas Trevant expels any unrealistic expectations his sceptical apprentice Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue – Storage 24) – or we, the audience – might have by referencing the film that started it all with a warning not to expect ‘head-turning and pea soup.’
Kovak, on the cusp of being ordained as a priest, is suffering from a crisis of faith that has seen him threatening to abandon the church. The fact that he previously worked as a mortuary attendant for his father (Rutger Hauer – Blade Runner, Batman Begins) and has therefore seen his share of gore, is enough to convince his superiors that he is perfect material for hunting demons, and Trevant sees a veiled threat to turn the $100,000 the church has spent on his education into a student loan as an appropriate measure to ensure his doubting pupil agrees to visit Rome for training. Kovak’s scepticism is also obvious to his tutor in Rome (Ciarán Hinds – Ca$h, The Debt) who sends him to Hopkins’ Father Lucas in the hope that some first-hand experience will alter his views.
Most moviegoers would expect what, up to this point, has been a rather turgid and unconvincing drama to heat up a little once the story gets amongst the thick of the exorcisms, but it’s at this point that Hopkins deliver his ‘pea soup’ line, and all hopes are quickly dashed. The plot continues to unfold at a frustratingly slow pace as the two religious men become involved with a pregnant teenager who may or may not be possessed by a demon, and fails to create any kind of tension or suspense. It might be that Hafstrom was aiming more for atmosphere than in-your-face scares, but the near-slum locations are depressing, and the use of darkness merely makes it difficult to see what’s going on rather than creating any sense of menace.
You can forgive O’Donoghue for appearing in a disappointment like this – he’s a young actor still striving to make a name for himself – but Anthony Hopkins’ involvement is questionable. It’s tempting to believe he simply turned up for the pay-cheque, but perhaps it was the finale, which permits him to grandstand unashamedly, that proved irresistible. By then, though, the audience is beyond caring, defeated by the funereal pace and the confusing storyline.
(Reviewed 17th March 2012)