(MA) Warner DVD/BD
Any time a film’s synopsis includes the words “possession” and “priest”, every movie maniac anywhere must instantly think of Oscar-winning 1973 chiller The Exorcist, which remains the definitive screen work about the contentious subject of banishing demons.
Starring Sir Anthony Hopkins, The Rite is about priests trying to combat “possession”. While it would like viewers to believe it is providing a different angle from that of The Exorcist, The Rite doesn’t.
Both films are loosely based on true stories, hinge on men of the cloth having crises of faith, and feature young women apparently consumed by a force which demands creepy voices, body contortion and a choral soundtrack.
Despite The Rite being set in the shadow of Vatican City in Rome, presentation of theological debates, mixed with dogma and Catholic ritual, lacks the sophistication and sincerity of The Exorcist.
Without aiming to be an evangelical tool, The Exorcist’s simplified yet graphic exhibition of “good versus bad” should make even the hardiest atheist question how the presence of evil can be understood and, more importantly, opposed. The Rite doesn’t force the same contemplation.
As The Rite goes through the demon-busting motions, Hopkins throws himself in as a maverick Jesuit who challenges his wishy-washy apprentice (Colin O’Donoghue) with deliberately daft rants about spiritual attacks and how a “real” exorcism isn’t like the movies. But the exorcism techniques displayed prove to be vastly similar to, um, what we’ve seen in other movies.
For a genuine, un-Hollywood exorcism, turn to the gospel accounts of Jesus Christ banishing demons. Without histrionics, annoying music or a song and dance, Jesus’ power over evil is clearly demonstrated by his compassionate yet authoritative acts.