Friday, January 28, 2011

'The Rite' review: Giving this devil movie its due

Editor's Note: Instead of a lot of movie critic mumbo jumbo, this relaxed review comes to us today from special contributor, fashion blogger Jen Danczak. If you'd like to write for Paranormal Pop Culture, please email press@paranormalpopculture.com with your story submission.


 Have you ever wondered what would happen if you opened yourself up to the devil? In the new movie The Rite, which opens today and stars Anthony Hopkins, viewers can find out the answer.

I had the pleasure of being in the audience for this movie’s screening. During the opening scene - set in the embalming room of a mortuary - there were slightly graphic images that took over the screen that had me cringing. I immediately thought, “Great, it’s going to be one of those movies?”

Then the scene was over, and boy was I wrong.

The son of Rutger Hauer's character, Michael Kovak (relative newcomer Colin O’Donoghue) comes from a family of funeral home workers. He leaves this life to escape to seminary - and then tries to ditch that world before taking his vows as a priest.

Kovak is having a crisis of faith, and appears to be skeptical of the entire God/Devil deal. His Father Superior (Toby Jones) forces his hand to go overseas to Rome to attend "exorcism school" (apparently the devil has been hard at work, and the Vatican has decided it needs more exorcists, so Kovak either has to give it a shot, enjoy Italy, learn about Satan - or pay back seminary student loans).

While in Rome, yet another Father figure (Ciaran Hinds) sees potential in Kovak, but sends the skeptic to watch the work of Father Lucas, a very busy exorcist (Hopkins in scenery chewing mode). Lucas tries to convert Michael into actually believing and building faith, and Kovak plays sidekick and chief doubter on exorcisms involving a pregnant girl who spits up nails and a little boy haunted by a demon mule (with red eyes, natch).

The main message Lucas tries to impart is that the devil skulks quietly, preferring to be unseen, and doesn't always spit pea soup. And if someone is infested with demons, it can be a long process of multiple exorcising sessions before the beast goes bye-bye. Meanwhile Kovak chalks all the activity up to psychological issues.

Until he begins having his own experiences. What happens next is up to you to see. The film moves slowly, but maintains an eeriness about it throughout - although the ending is a big finish which gets somewhat over-the-top.

The symbolism is quite clear (nice for simple viewers like me), and the mentor/mentee relationship feels fresh and unexpected. With just the slightest amount of comedy, suspense, mystery - but not horrow - the viewer is kept on the edge of their seat waiting for the next move, and that is always a plus.

Aside from the storyline standpoint, I couldn’t help but notice the different eye-catching camera angles used. Not only that, but the acting was phenomenal. You can see how each actor and actress soaked themselves into the skin of their character in order for this movie to be successful, and it worked.

Although this movie is based off of true events in a non-fiction book by journalist Matt Baglio, The Rite is trying to be the heir to timeless film The Exorcist (even the actors vaguely resemble Fathers Merrin and Karras). While not as good (but far better than The Last Exorcism and in the same evil neighborhood as Emily Rose), The Rite is the closest modern parallel of the classic film with its own twists and distinctive plot. America’s obsession with demons and exorcisms continues with the help of this movie.

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