Review: The Rite

Mikael Håfström's newest feature, The Rite follows a young American priest, Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue), questioning his belief in God. His superior sends him to The Vatican to fix his crisis in faith and to attend classes in the dying practice of exorcism. There he meets Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins) and faces a deadly battle against a demon.

I'm sure that after reading the above description, The Rite does not strike you as an original take on the exorcism film - and it's not. The film falls back on all the typical conventions of the genre - upside down crucifixes, foul mouthed demons, a priest doubting his beliefs and ham-fisted symbolism. That's not to say The Rite isn't an entertaining horror film though, which it most certainly is.

The film is really a vehicle for Hopkins to show of his acting talents and this is a joy to see. Every scene Hopkins is in, he's truly captivating. Even some of the most cliched dialogue (and this film has a lot of that) simply turns to gold when delivered by Hopkins. His quick-witted and dry-humoured performance is hugely entertaining with lines like "Do you like cats?" "Not really" "Welcome to Rome it's infested with cats." However, in the film's finale Hopkin's performance does go overly camp - but we'll give him a break, he's playing a possessed man. Also don't get me wrong, violence against children is terrible but seeing Hopkins dressed only in a robe, slapping an annoying little girl is highly amusing. Despite being a relatively new face in the acting world, Colin O'Donoghue certainly holds his own in the scenes with Hopkins. He's extremely likeable as the hunky young priest, forced to confront what he truly believes in.

Despite the trailer giving a way far too much of the film, albeit the eventual possession of Hopkin's Father Lucas is quite predictable, the journey is still quite entertaining. At times, Håfström's direction feels rather heavy handed and the symbolism ranges from completely chilling to highly amusing - For example, in one scene we see a clawed hand stroke Kovak's face, which is very unnerving. Then we see a red-eyed donkey or a room full of frogs, which is somewhat laughable. Smaller roles from Rutger Hauer, Alice Braga and Ciaran Hinds are well thought out and Hauer's is especially fitting with the sinister and foreboding atmosphere of the film.

Although we've seen the story many a time, and some of the plot points and scares are overly predictable, Hopkins and O'Donoghue carry the film extremely well making it an entertaining addition to the exorcism canon.
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