The Rite

release date January 28 2011
studio New Line Cinema
director Mikael Hafstrom
writer Matt Baglio, Michael Petroni
starring Anthony Hopkins, Colin O'Donoghue, Alice Braga, Ciaran Hinds, Toby Jone
tagline The Making of a Modern Day Exorcist
trailer 1 Trailer #1

The Rite

Mikael Håfström’s religious thriller The Rite was so uninspired that I had to handcuff myself to my chair in order to write this review. When a movie begins the development process, every single person involved should be asking the simple question: “what makes this better than…?” Because, what’s the point in attempting to make a movie that’s “less than” one of its predecessors? Such the case with The Rite, Warners and New Line Cinema’s take on the exorcism subgenre that never can find its own voice in comparison to the legendary 1973 film The Exorcist.

The Rite appears to be more interested in imitating The Exorcist than attempting something fresh and original. Very loosely inspired by the book “The Making of a Modern Exorcist” by Matt Baglio, Michael Petroni delivers a screenplay void of scares and heavy on the exposition. To a fault, nearly every facet of the script focuses on building Michael Kovak’s (Colin O’Donoghue) “lack of faith”. It’s as if Petroni honed in on the “eventual point” of The Exorcist, and couldn’t take his eyes off of it. Seriously, how many freakin’ times does the audience need to be reminded that Kovak has lost his faith in God? How much sh*t does he really have to see to believe? As a theatergoer, I would have become a believer the second one of the girls starts puking up rusty nails. But no, not Kovak, he apparently needs to die to believe anything. After the nearly two-hours of yippity-yap, Kovak finally comes face to face with his faith and is thus enlightened by one of the most logical aspects of any religious theorist (I’ll refrain from mentioning because apparently this would be the “twist” to some). Suffice to say, even the climax had me bored to tears.

In terms of scares, Håfström, who directed the pretty-good psychological thriller 1408, should be absolutely ashamed of what landed on the screen. The first time the audience gets a jolt is in the form of a f*cking “cat scare” (shocking note: isn’t that also the first scare in The Exorcist?), filling the rest of the film with loud noises, nails scratching on the wall, FX-heavy facial transformations, and the most eye-popping of all: literally ripping-off the breathing techniques used in The Exorcist. I’m sorry, but this is not an homage; it borders on plagiarism.

The Exorcist did it ALL right the first time; it presented the challenge of faith in a real way, it utilized sound as an actual scare tactic, and also applied some of the most disturbing practical effects work every caught on film. So why attempt to remake what’s essential PERFECTION? It makes no sense.

Even with a stellar performance by Sir. Anthony Hopkins, a few sprinkles of cool sequences (the red-eyed horse was awesome), and gorgeous cinematography, The Rite is nothing short of being a slice of stale white bread. It’s a poor imitation of a classic that doesn’t attempt a single risk and never strives to do anything original. If you like your cheeseburger plain, without cheese, The Rite might excite at least a tiny fart out of you.

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