It's not a good sign when an exorcism movie pulls down a PG-13 rating. This means the amount of blood and/or cursing is probably insufficient, especially for this overworked subgenre. Such is the case with The Rite, a vehicle for a demonic Anthony Hopkins who once again glints his eyes, rattles off cantankerous innuendoes and sinister wisecracks in heavy makeup as CGI-enhanced veins pop out of his skin. Think Hannibal Lecter, but even more possessed.
Billed as "based on true events," this flick treads on thin demonic ice. Tired conventions abound, such as with the father-son (Rutger Hauer/Colin O'Donoghue) funeral home scene. Here, an attempt at creepiness is merely dull - peppered with generic horror movie lines like, "We live with dead people in our house, how much worse can it get?"
Soon son Michael goes off to become a priest, but after stumbling he is sent to Rome to take an exorcism class. Father Xavier (Ciarán Hinds) sends the doubting Michael to study with Father Lucas (Hopkins), a bonafide exorcist. All who encounter Michael see "something" in him, yet Michael sees nothing in himself... what a shock. So then we get the requisite skepticism followed by tons of proof of the devil's existence.
Lucas informs us that there's no spewing green pea soup or spinning heads, but we are treated to a possessed woman's neck cracking, convulsing, drooling and body twisting acrobatics, which we've come to expect from the possessed. There's nothing like coughing up bloody nails to convert a non-believer, but wait, that still doesn't do it. Not until Lucas becomes possessed does Michael have a day of reckoning, transforming into an almighty-God-fearing avenger, at which point this movie comes full circle and forms a perfect cheese ball.
O'Donoghue's uneven performance makes Michael's ambivalence toward religion less than believable. The only fun is watching Hopkins hamming it up. Director Mikael Hafstrom (1408, Derailed) has a way of establishing nice images, but the vague emoting, pre-fab dialogue, flashbacks, jolt scare tactics and dream sequences make it feel like a slow-paced one-act play. Rite's little shocks echo the Omen sequels and the recent Unborn. It's a shame... all that devil with nowhere original to go.
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Colin O'Donoghue, Alice Braga, Ciarán Hinds
Directed by: Mikael Hafstrom