Rite, The (2011)

The RiteReviewed by Andrew Kasch

Starring Anthony Hopkins, Alice Braga, Colin O’Donoghue, Rutger Hauer

Directed by Mikael Håfström

Religion and horror go hand-in-hand like peanut butter and chocolate. But when the dual Bills (Blatty and Friedken) made The Exorcist back in the day, they sort of ruined demonic possession for everyone else. I certainly don’t envy any filmmaker with the cajones to tackle the same subject matter. It’s like trying to make a killer shark flick – no matter what you do, you’ll never be Jaws. So it’s no surprise that The Rite is exactly what you think it is — another mediocre religious thriller living in the shadow of an untouchable classic.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A young priest (Colin O’Donoghue) with a crisis of faith decides to take on a demonic possession case in Rome (he doesn’t believe in this sort of stuff). As he questions the events around him, he’s led into a series of exorcisms on a young girl with the guidance of an old sage-like exorcist (Anthony Hopkins). Oh, and it’s based on “true events.”

Yes, it’s derivative as hell, but the first half of The Rite still manages to be fairly interesting because it takes noticeable steps to differentiate itself from The Exorcist. Rather than piling on the Dick Smith make-up, the script takes a real-world approach to the questions behind demonic possession and leaves it up for the viewer to decide — at least for a while. At one point, a skeptical O’Donoghue sits in on his first exorcism and is under-whelmed when it amounts to nothing more than a mentally disturbed girl thrashing around in her chair, to which Hopkins responds, “What did you expect? Spinning heads and pea soup?

The RiteAs our bland protagonist weighs the evidence, various apocalyptic signs (frog plagues, etc) begin to appear and point to something larger that never fully materializes into the plot. Mostly the film spends a lot of time with discussions about faith and skepticism, anchored entirely by a great eccentric performance from Hopkins. Granted all these themes were explored with much more class in The Exorcist (hell, they were explored better in director Mikael Håfström’s 1408), but The Rite gets a few points for taking a realistic and largely subtle approach in its early scenes.

But this is Hollywood, and subtlety doesn’t sell popcorn. Just like the ridiculous jump-the-shark finale of The Last Exorcism, all these interesting ideas go straight to Hell (literally!) when Hopkins’ character randomly gets possessed by the evil spirit of William Shatner and undergoes a physical transformation into a raving CGI boogeyman. After years of terrible religious thrillers, this level of showy climactic bullshit has become commonplace, but seeing Hopkins go down this route is like watching an Oscar morph into a Razzie before your very eyes. It’s just embarrassing.

Naturally, there’s the inevitable exorcism and epiphany for our characters, but none of it really adds up. And isn’t that true of this entire subgenre over the last 20 years? Do you remember The Order? Lost Souls? Stigmata? Of course not. Pretty soon, you won’t remember The Rite either.

I cast you out!

2 1/2 out of 5

Discuss The Rite in the comments section below!

Get this site 100% Ad Free Support Us on Patreon!

Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.

Get Your Box of Dread Now
*US Residents Only .
  • jesstro

    damn… I was so hoping for a good exorcism movie, the Last Exorcism almost could have had it, but nope. Ill go see the The Exorcist and be afraid of the dark for a night.

  • elric300


    “Raises hand quietly. I liked it. “Runs for cover”

  • Mr. Dark

    What did I take away from this review?

    Thank GOD someone else at DC agrees with me about The Last Exorcism!!!

  • kiddcapone

    This review is much too kind. I NEVER fall alseep in a movie theater with the few rare exceptions of trying to go after hours of drinking. Not a good combo. But SOBER, never! With The Rite, I was waging war with my eyelids for a majority of the film. And keep it in mind, I just saw the 11:50am show after an entire night of sleep.

    This movie was painful to endure. It starts off bleh, starts to get interesting with the pregnant girls exorcisms, then once she dies….OFF THE CLIFF. A demonic Anthony Hopkins reciting bad lines of dialogue was borderline embarrassing. Fuck it, it was embarrassing for an actor of his caliber to play this role. The CGI face paint wasn’t scary or even creepy in the least. I’m not entirely sure how much of the final showdown “climax” I missed, it could have been mere seconds or minutes, I’m not really sure, but I just couldn’t keep my eyes open.

    The Rite is BORING, dull, bland, and worst of all, not entertaining in the least.

    • Uncle Creepy

      Dude, when Hopkins went full blown “Wrath of Khan” screaming the demon’s name at the end I almost peed on myself.