Well, what can I say other than Hi, my name is Rabbit and I’m addicted to Exorcism movies? I remember watching The Exorcist back when I was a kid and shitting my pants. Over the following years, the subgenre went into hibernation. However, it would appear that with the release of the highly successful The Exorcism of Emily Rose, we’re about to see more and more of these movies. The movie we’re going to be talking about today tries to do the same. The Rite is an exorcism movie offering a different, more skeptical perspective on the subject.
We will be following a priest who goes to Italy to learn more about the ritual and how it’s performed. What makes the story more authentic is the fact that parts of it actually happened. The script is loosely based on Matt Baglio’s book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist. It describes the experiences of Father Gary Thomas who really did go to Italy to “train with the best”. The movie opens with a dose of healthy and macabre reality as we watch our future priest working as a mortician. And immediately my expectations started rising and rising.
After all, we have Anthony Hopkins in the lead role and Ciarán Hinds (Rome) is also playing a priest. If these two can’t make a good exorcism movie, no one can. Sadly, The Rite turned out to be just a mediocre movie featuring incoherent storytelling and not many scares. It’s definitely not a classic horror movie but more a series of events that happen to a confused young man. The technical details and strong performances saved it from being just another commercial mainstream blunder. The camera work is excellent along with music. Alex Heffes really nailed this one on the head.
The cinematography is just perfect and you can feel that the director is from Europe (Sweden). Mikael Håfström, the director of this movie, is the guy behind the highly effective single-location horror 1408. The Rite is also a PG-13 movie meaning that a 13-year-old kid can watch this movie without anyone present. So, forget about any graphic scenes or anything like that. However, I still don’t understand how you can label a movie PG-13 when in the opening scene we see our protagonist sawing a dead woman’s mouth shut. I guess you can get away with a lot of things these days if you have money.
Young Michael Kovak doesn’t want to be a mortician like his father. He wants to do something else, something rebellious. So, he decides to become a priest. After four years of indoctrination, I mean, education, he still hasn’t found his faith. However, after a tragic event, he ends up in Rome studying how to become an expert exorcist. And this is the place where he will meet Father Lucas Trevant. His unusual outlook on life and religion will help young Michael realize what he’s up against. And he will need to do that fast because the evil is waiting just around the corner.
I find it quite bizarre and tragic that I have to say that the tragic event that sent Michael to the Vatican is not a case of pedophilia. Moving on, like in so many other movies we have a contentious father-son relationship. If I see another movie featuring this type of shit I’m going to puke. I also think that The Rite is going to feel much different to a religious man than to an atheist. The movie itself feels like it has been written from an atheistic point of view in an effort to make a more believable exorcism movie.
I mean, when Michael arrives at his first lecture at the Vatican, he sees a slide of a man whose jaw has been dislocated upon hearing a prayer. I couldn’t help laughing at moments like this. Just because you’re hearing a high-ranking Vatican priest saying this in this huge amphitheater doesn’t mean it’s true. And yet the movie expects us to take this as a matter of fact. This brings me to my final point and that’s indoctrination by the authority figures brought on by our tribal system of values.
If you look at the movie from this perspective, it becomes extremely subversive. The trauma Michael’s father inflicts on him in the embalming room only continues with his “education” at the seminary. And the same logic applies to the victims of exorcisms who are clearly mentally ill. Their illness manifests itself through religion using it as a conduit. That’s just my theory. Who knows, maybe the whole thing is real and you’re reading words written by a possessed individual. After all, the greatest trick the devil has ever pulled is to convince people he doesn’t exist at all. Queue The Exorcist soundtrack…
Director: Mikael Håfström
Writers: Michael Petroni, Matt Baglio
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Colin O’Donoghue, Alice Braga, Ciarán Hinds, Rutger Hauer, Toby Jones
Fun Facts: The producers of another highly popular horror movie, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Tripp Vinson and Beau Flynn were the ones who bought the rights from Matt Baglio.