I am a huge fan of horror films, and few intrigue me more than those with ‘possession’ and ‘exorcism’ angles. So of course I was eager to see The Rite, which was apparently aiming to be this generation’s The Exorcist. It stars Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins and newcomer Colin O’Donoghue (great screen presence), and tells the story of the young son of a mortuary owner (O’Donoghue) who almost drops out of seminary school and is instead whisked to Rome to participate in ‘exorcism’ class, and ends up learning from an unorthodox expert (Hopkins).
I didn’t have to see the film to know that critics were probably going to savage it — few horror films these days, especially those dealing with the supernatural, are likely to pass through unscathed. However, I thought the previews looked pretty promising, so I was kind of hoping for the best but expecting the worst.
I’ll get straight to the point. The Rite started off extremely well, almost too well for its own good. It was atmospheric, intriguing, chilling and rather eye-opening. It also asked some interesting questions about religion, faith and psychiatric illness, without coming off feeling contrived. There were some fantastically effective scenes and sequences that made me recoil in horror. It’s supposedly ‘inspired’ by true events, though I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about that.
However, at some point, around halfway through the film, The Rite takes a massive wrong turn. I can almost pinpoint the exact scene where things start going downhill. The point of view begins to switch awkwardly all over the place, and all subtlely flies out the window. Instead of keeping you guessing, everything is spelled out and shoved down your throat, and genuine chills are replaced by cheap scares and special effects. What began as potentially a new classic spiralled into just another uninspiring supernatural horror flick.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed the first half.
2.75 stars out of 5