The Rite

"There's a lot of bad happening here, but none can be attributed to Hopkins."

There has been a recent fascination with exorcism movies, starting with The Exorcism of Emily Rose and also seen in last summer's sleeper hit The Last Exorcism. Of course, none could hold a candle to The Exorcist, but that hasn't stopped filmmakers from diving into the recurring story of good vs. evil, Satan vs. the words of God, or possessed girls vs. priests' losing their faith. The Rite is no different from other Exorcist copycats, hitting the same ol' plot points and general storylines, albeit with one major exception: it's not very good.
Claiming to be inspired by true events, the film follows former mortician Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue) as he joins a seminary school in attempt to find meaning in his life. But before he can graduate to full priesthood he questions his faith and decides to quit the church forever. As one last attempt to regain his faith and finish his studies, he sets off for Rome to take a course in exorcisms (because he was a mortician and can stomach horrific things). After attributing stories of the possessed to psychology, his superiors ask him to tag along with noted exorcist Father Lucas Trevant (Anthony Hopkins as he conducts exorcisms on a daily basis. Will seeing the Devil at work restore Kovak's belief in God and faith in the church?
The biggest problem The Rite has is that it's boring, and for a movie (that bases its existence on entertainment), being boring is decidedly not a good thing. The film's boring factor could be attributed to its story of regaining one's faith in God and the church, as it's a story we've seen in just about every movie involving exorcisms. Or it could be attributed to the overall blandness of the film's protagonist (O'Donoghue), who equated being a skeptic to one who shows as little emotion as possible. Then there's the gray and colorless feel of the film, which is par for the course for religious horror films I suppose, but still bland to behold.
For a horror movie featuring exorcisms, the presence of Satan, and the possession of the innocent, The Rite is also quite weak in the scares department. Save for a few boo-scares, the film doesn't offer a single scary, eerie, creepy, or horrific moment during its entire running time. It tries to pull off a few scenes of spookiness, but as it's so predictable in its "been there, done that" approach, the creep level never really hits its mark. To breathe life into the blandness they threw in a subplot of a journalist (Alice Braga) trying to reveal the truth about real-life exorcisms, but it too falls short of its intentions, and adds nothing to the overall arc of the film.
There's plenty to blame for The Rite's blandness, none of which falls on the great Anthony Hopkins, who serves as the film's only saving grace. Hopkins lets loose a performance that's wild and eccentric one moment, then controlled and powerful the next. Fans of Hopkins will enjoy his performance in The Rite, as he creates a character who's actually worth following around for most (if not all) of his screen time. He's the only one in the entire picture who shows any enthusiasm, which is unfortunate as his character doesn't show up until about a half hour into the film. There's a lot of bad happening here, but none can be attributed to Hopkins.
The filmmakers had a chance to do something different with The Rite, to give us a story about exorcisms that we haven't seen before. Instead, they duplicated every other exorcist movie out there, and worst of all, it's not scary. Hopkins brings his talent to the table, but even he can't save the film from bombing. If you're one of those people who watches every exorcism movie out there, wait for it to hit video; if you're like everyone else looking to be entertained, skip The Rite altogether.

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