The Rite Review
by Mike Holtz, WeWatchedAMovie
Exorcism movies always carry loads of horror potential and usually end in disappointment. The reason for this is? The idea of demons possessing us is arguably the scariest thought one could imagine because it is one of the more realistic fears one could have. Exorcisms apparently happen all the time and many consider them to be very real indeed. The Rite is no different, especially when you consider the fact that this movie is based on the book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist about the alleged real events of Father Gary Thomas. The trouble is that none of these movies ever seem to be very original because, let’s face it, the story has already been told to perfection in The Exorcist.
The Rite takes a slightly different angle as it is about Father Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue), who enters a seminary school, unsure of his faith. When he tries to leave the school, however, citing his lack of faith, he is sent to Rome to take a class on Exorcism. When he shows his disbelief in the stories of Exorcism in class he is then sent to Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), a tried and true exorcist who has been doing this for so long he barely bats an eyelash at things that would make you and I need a new pair of shorts. Here, Kovac witnesses several exorcisms performed, yet still remains skeptical even after seeing one patient choke up a set of rusty nails.
We go through this repetition for quite a while before things really start to fall apart for Michael and for the plot as he begins flashbacks to his youth and his creepy mortician father, and things begin to get really convoluted. It’s at this point that The Rite kind of says “to hell with it,” and jumps back into familiar exorcism movie mode. There are a few scares and a few genuinely good Anthony Hopkins creepy moments, even if a few times I was unsure whether to be freaked out or laugh at some of the really strange dialogue choices. But alas, O’Donoghue’s portrayal of Father Kovac is where the film spends most of its time, dissecting his faith and his past. The Rite needed O’Donoghue’s performance to give us a lot more than it did and he wasn’t terrible, he was just…. there.
O’Donoghue’s performance mixed with the film’s unsteady changes of pace and convoluted story will have you enjoying what you are watching one moment to just not caring the next and feeling as though you just watched two different movies — a horror movie about exorcism and a character study into the true story of a Priest unsure of his faith. Unfortunately, the film bites off more than it can chew and doesn’t do much justice for either but as far as exorcism movies go it at least had the desire to be more than generic. It wouldn’t be all that disappointing if it weren’t for Anthony Hopkins being in the film. I found myself thinking how lucky they were to have him in this role and wondering what could have been.