Friday, August 26, 2011

Horror Film Review

The Rite (2011):  Exorcism flick!  And it doesn't suck!  What makes it cool is that it's based on real events.  Throw in Anthony Hopkins as the possessed priest and Rutger Hauer as a mortician, and you got a recipe that surely can't go wrong.  (This is where I usually say something snarky about how wrong it went.  Not this time.)

Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue) grew up with his mortician father (Hauer) in a house that doubled as the funeral home.  His mother died when he was a young boy and being forced to blow on her fingertips to dry the nail polish his father applied for her funeral didn't endear the lad to the profession.  So he decides to go to priest school despite the fact he didn't experience a calling.  His doubts mount in the seminary and he decides to quit...but gets talked into attending an exorcism class in Rome first.  The professor, Father Xavier (Ciaran Hinds) recognizes Michael's internal struggle and sends him to an unconventional Jesuit priest to help prove the validity of possession and the necessity of exorcists.  The Jesuit is Father Lucas Trevant (Hopkins), a daffy Welshman who Michael thinks is more of a snake oil salesman than demon fighter.  That is until Father Lucas himself becomes possessed by a demon who had taken up residence inside a young pregnant woman Lucas was trying to help.  Then it's up to the faith-challenged Michael to save him...and in doing so, maybe himself. 

Reviews of the big shot critics complained that The Rite moved too slow and isn't truly a horror film.  Bollocks.  The pace is nearly perfect and I found myself creeping to the edge of my seat more than once.  Hopkins is mesmerizing as Father Lucas, so incredibly likable...but when the demon takes over, holy crap!  He makes Hannibal Lector look like a prissy little girl.  You can tell Hopkins is having a ball and that makes his performance so much fun to watch.

Something that fascinated me was the exorcism class taught by Father Xavier.  The straightforward way the subject is approached, and knowing this class is really taught in Rome, lends a sense of realism you won't find in films like The Exorcist or The Exorcism of Emily Rose.  This coupled with the location shooting makes for a memorable experience.

The Breakdown

Acting:  O'Donoghue comes off as a bit flat as Kovak but not so as to distract or take away from Hopkins' near-perfect Lucas/Baal offering.  Hauer's subdued performance is easily overlooked but shouldn't be. 
Story:  Based on true events, so what can I say?  I like that they provided what the real-life Kovak and Lucas are up to today before running the end credits. 
Direction:  I can't think of any missteps by director Mikael Hafstrom. 
Production Values:  No expense spared from what I can tell.  Easy on the eyes.
Gore/FX:  Not much, which is fine.  It's simply not needed to create the suspense and sense of impending terror.
Scares:  There are some jumps that got me.  (And I don't usually get got.)  One was just a slap, but jeez...I credit Hopkins for that working so well.
The Ending:  I like.  Since it's not all doom and gloom, some horror fans won't.  Tough.

The Verdict:  Should you see The Rite?  Hell, yeah!  I mean...certainly.  It's one of the best films I've seen lately.  And seriously, how often do you hear me say that?

My Rating:  4 out of 5 stars. 

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