Starring Anthony Hopkins and Colin O’Donoghue. Rated PG.
The Rite is a horror movie about a seminary student who teams up with a seasoned exorcist to vanquish demons in Rome. Its plot hinges on the doubts that both the novice and the expert have about demonic possession, and by the time it’s over, you’ll be doubtful too—about whether the world needs any more exorcism flicks.
Watch the trailer for The Rite.
Ireland’s Colin O’Donoghue makes his feature debut as youthful skeptic Michael Kovak, who is carrying a ton of spiritual baggage after being raised by an overbearing undertaker dad (Rutger Hauer). Kovak is sent to Rome to study exorcism at the Vatican and learn about the trade firsthand from the unorthodox Father Lucas Trevant (Anthony Hopkins), whose own beliefs about demonic possession aren’t clear.
The Rite’s most shocking scenes involve the demon-battling duo’s ongoing exorcism of a pregnant teenager who may have been raped by her own father. It’s tough enough seeing an innocent young girl get twisted and contorted by the raging forces of evil, but when she’s doing the possession polka with a bellyful of baby, it’s twice as hard to watch.
Judging by The Rite’s promotional campaign, its backers are clearly pinning their box-office hopes on the idea that folks still want to see Hopkins get scary as hell, as he did to Oscar-winning effect in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs.
But although Hopkins shines when his evil-infused priest exhibits low-level nastiness—like backhanding a small child seeking comfort from his touch—his climactic exorcism scenes don’t ring true and aren’t very frightening. Despite his best intentions, the 73-year-old actor just can’t cut it as the new Linda Blair.