Why is it that Hollywood can't seem to get their crap in a pile and make a decent horror movie about devil possession? The more attempts they make that fall on their faces, the more it makes The Exorcist look even more impressive that it was pulled off so well. This attempt is The Rite and it stars Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins opposite an unknown hunk Colin O'Donoghue (The Tudors) in a film from Swedish director Mikael Hafstrom (1408). They even took the approach of tagging the beginning of this with a "Inspired by true events..." and hoped it would punch up the spookiness. It did but only in the respect that The Vatican really does have classes on exorcisms. That's about as spooky as this movie gets. The story is decent though; it follows a young man who's wrestling with his faith right before becoming a Priest. He's sent to Italy to watch real exorcisms in hopes that it would renew his belief in God. Pretty cool plot, right? It's just heartbreaking that nothing scary happens in the film. There are fleeing moments of creepiness but they're few and far from the stuff nightmares are made of. So disappointing! In all honesty, I wasn't expecting a lot from this in the first place. So in that respect, I kind of got more than I thought in a stellar performance from Hopkins. This might be him at his best since Silence of the Lambs. He pulls off stuff in this movie that is damn impressive for a senior citizen, and none of it appears to CGI or other special FX. Hopkins has a way of playing almost himself in every role but he recites the dialogue so fluently that it seems like improv instead of well rehearsed lines. It's a technique that kind of reminds me of the way Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, The Fly) used to perform...back when Jeff Goldblum used to perform. Of course with that much awesomeness laying around the set, you'd think his co-star would rise to the occasion. But shockingly, O'Donoghue loafs through the movie showing the same emotion that you'd imagine he would waiting at the DMV. If I were to pick one problem that The Rite has it would be its total lack of energy. This was a movie with a great actor performing better than ever in a film that has a decent core plot and it ended up being boring. Something I'd be willing to overlook if it got my blood pumping with some jumps and frights, but the only faith it restored in me was my faith that Hollywood hasn't and can't make a better possession movie than The Exorcist. Long may rein!
The Rite (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: C