Is it just me or is there a shortage of movies about exorcism? I am surprised that there have been so few in recent years. I don’t subscribe to the theory that most film makers wouldn’t want to touch the subject because the original The Exorcist is such a classic – there is always a chancer out there who thinks they can improve on it. Like the person who thought it might be a good idea to make a new Pink Panther movie with Steve Martin! Of the more recent efforts we have Dominion, an Exorcist prequel that was less scary than said Pink Panther movie. We had The Last Exorcism, which had a tremendous marketing campaign and superb young actress but a boring story and laughable ending.
Now we have The Rite, a movie which hit the big screens earlier this year and in no time at all was available on DVD. The release was met with little fanfare. Strange, as it seemed to have a lot going for it as it is inspired by real events and stars Anthony Hopkins, Rutger Hauer and Toby Young.
The plot involves a young priest, Michael, who has been sent to the Vatican to take up a course on exorcism. Michael had only recently emailed his resignation but has been talked into taking the course in an attempt to recover his faith. His move to Rome allows the viewer an opportunity to enjoy some gorgeous scenery from the Italian capital. However, Michael isn’t too impressed as he doesn’t have cable in his room and even skips all the fancy Italian coffee bars for the local McDonald’s outlet. So we can tell he is the type of man who will need a lot of persuading if a change of heart is required.
The priest running the course, Father Xavier (Ciaran Hinds) tells him to visit Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins) and informs him that Lucas is Welsh and has unorthodox methods. I hope that he is not implying those two factors go hand in hand. We are then treated to a funny moment when, during an exorcism on a pregnant young woman, Father Lucas’s mobile phone rings (complete with comic ringtone). A moment that brings back memories of Leslie Nielson’s Repossessed. Ironic really, because there is a line in The Rite which takes a cheeky dig at The Exorcist. Things get a bit more serious by the time of the second exorcism attempt on the woman. Marta Garstini plays Rosaria here and deserves enormous credit for her performance. She shows real skill and range here showing Rosaria’s agony and inner turmoil throughout this process. Michael is still unconvinced that the devil is at work here and suggests she see a shrink. He (eventually) starts to get the message when further inexplicable incidents occur, including a nasty evening for Rosaria in the hospital.
After this the scares unfortunately are in short supply. A room full of frogs, a mule with red eyes and a boo! moment with a cat are all that there is to keep us going until the final scenes. My problem with this movie is that it seemed to peak too early and everything else that followed was just a bit predictable. Colin O’Donoghue is fine as Michael, perhaps a little bland but it is Anthony Hopkins who helps retain our interest. Perfectly watchable, as always, for most of the running time, with a deliciously OTT turn in the final scenes. He definitely seems to be enjoying himself here. His presence probably saved this one from direct to DVD ignominy.
The Rite is not a terrible movie, just a bit underwhelming after a promising start. We wait patiently for the next exorcism movie with the hope that someone can achieve a horror masterpiece as William Friedkin did.
N.B. The DVD’s extras are a rather lacklustre 12 minutes of deleted scenes. Hugely disappointing.