Directed by Mikael Håfström
Distributed by Warner Home Video
What is it about films pertaining to demonic possession that we just can’t seem to get right? There’s no doubt that The Exorcist is an incredible classic worthy of every ounce of praise that it gets, but is its shadow really that big that no other film dealing with similar themes can even come close to being as good? There have been a couple of decent ones here and there like The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Last Exorcism, but for the most part? We get nothing but mediocre fare or just plain crap.
So, where does The Rite fit in this whole picture? It has the great Sir Anthony Hopkins in it so that’s a plus. In fact he gets to go all demony, too, so that at the least should be entertaining! Right? Wrong. Before we get to all that, though, let’s go with a quick plot crunch.
See: The Exorcist.
Yep, it’s all here. The skeptical priest struggling with his faith. The older, more experienced priest who’s had several dances with the devil. The helpless female victim that changes both of their lives. To say it’s derivative is a bit of an understatement, but to its credit the first half of The Rite actually works. Despite its obvious cues the flick actually creates an almost fresh feeling take on the subject matter. But then it happens. The dreaded halfway point of the film at which director Mikael Håfström has to decide just how over-the-top he’s going to go.
Will he drown us in pea soup or kill us with subtlety? In the end he tries to ride the tricky route of flying straight down the middle while hammering us over the head with silly symbolism. Frogs! Spooky horses! Yeah, sorry. Didn’t work as intended, but that’s because it’s unclear just what his intentions are. You can almost feel his uncertainty of which way to go as the last half plays out on the screen.
But the biggest sin? The wasting of Anthony Hopkins as a possession victim – complete with Shatner-esque acting circa Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – and really, really bad CGI facial animation to make him look spooky. By the time the credits roll, we’re so needlessly off-the-rails that you cannot help but be immensely disappointed. Things started off so well. And so it goes.
In terms of picture and sound quality, yeah, the Blu-ray takes the cake but not by much. In fact, having compared it to its standard definition cousin, there’s not much here that will have your eyes popping or ears singing. That being said, the decision of which package to get – the DVD, the Blu-ray, or the Blu-ray/DVD combo – really depends on the special features, and even those are pretty much on par with each other.
There’s a seven-minute long featurette focusing on the priest whose story inspired The Rite, Father Gary Thomas, and around fourteen minutes of deleted scenes that do very little in terms of amping up the scares. The only Blu-ray specific feature to be found here is billed as the Chilling Alternate Ending, but believe me, there’s no truth in advertising. What we have here is a variation of the theatrical ending only with more badly placed symbolism presented in a slightly foreboding manner.
In the end The Rite is certainly worth a watch if you happen to get around to it. Just don’t be surprised if you feel so unclean afterwards that a few rounds with The Exorcist aren’t called for immediately to wash away the foul taste left behind by it.
2 1/2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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