April 4, 2011

The Rite (2011)

"An American seminary student travels to Italy to take an exorcism course."

I've just finished watching "The Rite" and I'm still buzzing from what I now consider to be the second greatest exorcist movie of all time. Bearing in mind that "Constantine" is number one and "The Exorcist" itself is number three on my list, and you'll get an idea of just how "The Rite" fits into my probably warped appreciation of this subgenre.

Apart from "The Exorcist" which I saw at the tender age of nineteen, years after "Repossessed" tried to ruin any shock value it could hold for me, I've never been a big fan of these Catholic church dramas. The story is always the same, there's always lots of doubting and then God wins.

When "Constantine" came out, things changed. John Constantine knew that demons, angels and God existed so the whole exorcism thing moved into new territory with loads of action and less of all that talky nonsense, frightened looks and self-sacrifice. Unfortunately, "Constantine" was pretty much hated by everybody and everything regressed again.

So with great trepidation, I watched "The Rite" thinking that it was going to be the same clichéd old schtick as a couple of dozen weak, often PG-13 rated, exorcism films all of which I detest especially "The Exorcist III" and the prequels. There aren't even enough swear words in the English language to describe how much I hate "The Exorcism of Emily Rose".

I got a very pleasant surprise with "The Rite" though. For a start it had Anthony Hopkins in it not some Tom Wilkinson guy doing a poor impersonation of his Americanized accent. It also had a younger, fresher version of Damien Karras played by Colin O'Donoghue as well as that Brazillian chick from "Predators" and a cameo from Rutger Hauer. Good times!

What really set "The Rite" apart from the slew of crappy exorcist clones already in existence was the powerfulness of everything. This was dark, eerie stuff and I'm surprised that it kept within the the PG-13 rating. There was all that twisting, convulsing, possessed stuff as usual too but it opted to go for agony rather than vulgarity. I kind of like that in a horror movie not that I'm opposed to as much vulgarity as a filmmaker can sling my way either. This was just classy and Anthony Hopkins screaming "BAAAAAL!" had more effect than a million Regan wannabes enticing their priests with "Lick me, lick me!"

Aw, but I'm giving away the plot and you know how I hate doing that even for a January theatrical movie that took all of two months to come out on DVD. "The Rite" is full of clichés of course, the characters are all pretty two-dimensional, and it's derivative of every other exorcist movie out there but it's still a great film with awesome camerawork, effects and ANTHONY HOPKINS!

Yes, Anthony Hopkins makes this film into something which could have been so generic by giving a performance right up there with his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter. In fact, I'd say that his Father Lucas Trevant is better than Hannibal Lecter which is no mean feat considering that Anthony Hopkins is in his seventies now.

Was there any realism to how the exorcisms were performed and was it really inspired by true events? Probably not but who cares? It's a horror movie and a thoroughly entertaining one.

I absolutely recommend "The Rite" to anybody and everybody who appreciates a good creepy atmosphere, scary demonic possessions and a city full of cats. Ok, so you don't really have to be into Rome's abundant cat population to like this film, that's just something I picked up on, but if you've ever wanted to see a worthy sequel to "The Exorcist" without stupid scenes of people walking on the ceiling or spewing pea soup all over the place then "The Rite" is for you.

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