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An interesting thing happened the other day at work [I'm an electrician for those who don't know me personally]. The woman who's house I was working at kept offering me food thought the day. First it was sweet tea, then greek burgers [which don't get offered very often lemme tell you. lol], both of which I politely declined. I was working alone that day and was just trying to get the job done so that I could go home. The next offering was cake, and when I said, "No thank you", she replied, "Well what do you like?". I didn't know what to say and from the expression on my face she could tell. It was at this point that she took a quick look around the room and then back at me, "Do you like movies?". With that question, I was done. I had been defeated. I told her that I love movies and I go to horror film festivals and that I make a attempt to review them online. She left the room only to return with a stack of DVD-Rs. Among things like Season Of The Witch and Rango [which is awesome b.t.w.] was The Rite. Here are my thoughts on the demonic thriller given to me by an infinity generous woman.

The Rite starts off with our main character, Michael Kovak [Colin O‘Donoghue], who is 20 something at a crossroads in his life. Desperate to get out of his dead end home town and away from his domineering father [Rutger Hauer], he knows that his only two career choices are to become mortician like his father [which sure isn’t going to happen] or seminary school. This isn’t explained very well at the time Michael makes his decision, but seminary school offers four years of college education before you become a priest. This arrangement offers young priest wanna-bes a free ride, so naturally Michael chooses seminary school.

Now, four years later, Michael is just days away from graduating and becoming a priest. He is well liked by his professors and has gotten excellent grades in all of his classes, that is, except theology. Probably the most important of all the courses a young seminary student can attend. You see, Michael has very little faith, if any. He was never interested in becoming a priest, just getting away from home and acquiring a college education. This comes to the attention of Father Matthew [Toby Jones], who fills the position of dean here at seminary school. The two, Father Mathew and Michael, get together for a friendly chat about what direction Michael’s life is taking. This is when Father Matthew breaks the news to Michael that if he doesn’t go through with becoming a priest, he will have to pay for his education in full. Totaling over one hundred thousand dollars. This part made me laugh. The church is one tricky bitch.

Come here little girl, I'ma exorcise you outta them panties.

You know what they say, when god closes a door he opens a window. Father Matthew then extends to Michael an opportunity to travel to Rome, take a class in exorcism and when all is said and done the church will again pay for Michael’s schooling. Michael reluctantly agrees. By the way, that saying always rubbed my the wrong way. So if  “god closes a door” we can just take it upon ourselves to become creepy cat burglars and climb through peoples windows? Just sayin‘.

Rome is where Michael meets Father Lucas Trevant [Anthony Hopkins]. Father Tervant begins teaching Michael the finer points of exorcism the hard way. They jump right into it and begin working together to exorcise a young pregnant woman. Why a pregnant woman you ask? Well because a man with a demon in him isn’t very scary. A woman with a demon in her is just kinda scary. But a pregnant woman with a demon in her is “shit your pants” scary, right? Right?! I’ll stop here about the pregnant woman, I’d rather not spoil to many of the juicy details from this part of the film.

Soon the demon within the pregnant woman takes an interest in Michael. The demon makes Michael his personal hobby and decides to “up the ante” by taking over the body of Father Trevant. Michael now has to overcome his fears, find his faith and endure in order to save Father Tervant. Did I just spoil the ending? Yeah I did, but can you blame me? It was pretty predictable.

Well, the thing about The Rite is, it’s just like all the other exorcism movies. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it, it’s good, but if you’ve seen The Exorcist and The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, then you’ve seen The Rite. Thought the film the viewer is greeted again and again with the theme; strength in faith can conquer evil. Yawn, I’ve seen that movie already, a lot, and the formula goes something like this.
Young Priest: This whole thing is preposterous!

Old Priest: You must have faith my boy.

Young Priest: Pffft, fat chance old man.

Old Priest: You’ll see. Just watch me exorcise.
- The Old Priest prays and casts a demon out.

Young Priest: Okay, I saw it, but I still don’t get it.

Old Priest: Well ok, watch again, but this time with feeling.
- Again the Old Priest says “abbra-cadabra” and a demon is expelled.

Young Priest: Oh yeah! I see what you mean. Only faith in god can overcome this here demon.
And in the end the Young Priest overcomes not only spiritual demons but personal ones as well.
There are a few recurring themes that I can’t quite make sense of. Perhaps I wasn’t supposed to. Maybe they are just foreshadowing or coincidence. One of these is the symbolism of names that is shared by cats outside Father Lucas Trevant’s home and the demons themselves. The key to controlling and exercising a demon is to learn it’s name and use that name against it. Okay, so, names seem important right? Earlier in the film when Michael meets Tervant he explains that Rome is infested with cats, “I’ve tried giving them names but it’s pointless, a cat won’t come no matter what you call it. They do as they please”. Later when the father is being possessed, the neighborhood cats full his home just as the demon fills him. Are cats a symbol for demons? Does Tervant have no power over demons as he doesn’t have power over the cats? Does this mean anything or am I just fucked in the head?

Hello Wwwilllbur, I'm Baal and I've come for your soul!

While the creepy possession parts are in fact creepy and the performances, especially the one given by Anthony Hopkins, are top notch, it offers little or nothing new to the possession sub-genre of horror. The Rite also reenforces the idea that people become vulnerable to demon possession when they are at their weakest emotionally. Another idea that was expressed in The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, if memory serves me correctly. It is paced well and the cinematography are great but I can’t say that your missing anything if you don’t watch it.

I did come to the conclusion that The Rite would make a great prequel to The Exorcist. Michael Novak [Colin O'Donoghue], being a young Father Merrin [Max Von Sydow], showing how he was introduced into the priesthood and the ancient rite of exorcism.

Well don’t take my word for it, look for this and other titles at your local library. Reading Rainbow!


★ ★ ★