A young seminary lacks faith in his convictions and is sent to study exorcism by the Vatican. He may not believe, but it won’t stop him being drawn into a case that defies belief.
Ahhhhhh, an exorcism film that isn’t The Exorcist.
“Inspired by true events”, Father Lucas (played by Anthony Hopkins) is the only man, it seems, who can reaffirm Michael’s faith (played by Colin O’Donoghue). Something of a legend, Lucas has performed thousands of exorcisms and the opportunity of an apprentice affords Lucas the opportunity to tutor the sceptical Michael in “true evil”and the methods by which is must be handled.
“How bad can that be?”
Horror films endure based on expectation, all seeking to be the scariest experience since… well, the last scariest experience. The Rite is no exception as it revisits an oft misunderstood practice that has been the fertile breeding ground for the genre for decades.
Hopkins, and Toby Jones, bring gravitas to the film, as does the attempt to portray exorcism as a tool steeped in religion and used with reverence, as opposed to that of a maverick.
O’Donoghue has the unenviable task of being a bland character struggling with his faith, or lack thereof. It’s not a bad performance, it’s just that “lack of faith” seems to have been translated as lack of personality. He gets moments to shine, but it’s difficult when he’s aside Hopkins.
“What did you expect? Spinning head and pea soup?”
Whilst the exorcism of the film may be the source of horror, it’s also the way that Lucas wields his tools – he’s never cruel or abusive, but knows that believing something that may not be true is better than having no belief at all.
Comparisons with The Exorcist are inevitable, mainly because of the fame of that film and the brutal efficiency with which it told its story. Even at its goriest, it was a film based on moral shock than visceral thrills. The Rite continues that tradition with a battle of good and evil being played out and the horror coming from the shock against sensibilities.