No balanced cinematic diet is complete without the occasional burst of good ol’ fashion exorcising. The bar was raised early in the exorcism genre with William Friedken’s classic, The Exorcist (1973), and quality “power of Christ compels you!” ventures into cinematic sacrilege have since remained few and far between.
In The Rite sceptical seminary student Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue) is reluctantly sent to exorcism school at the Vatican. There he meets a wily and unorthodox veteran priest (Anthony Hopkins) — think Father Bob minus the larrikin humour — who shows him a ghastly world populated by the diabolical doings of possessed people who partake in classic exorcising routines: impossible body contortions, foaming mysterious liquid from the mouth, screeching more horrible gibberish than Charlie Sheen on a month long bender, etcetera.
Derailed (2005) and 1408 (2007) director Mikael Håfström takes a long, long time to hit his stride, and when he does The Rite goes bananas with chocked to the hilt grotesqueries, arriving at a delirious stretch of insane fun in which Anthony Hopkins loses his chops and grabs the film in a furious stranglehold. It’s a wild finale, hair-raising and berserk, but it arrives at the butt end of a drab and rudderless experience. The Rite’s first two acts direly needed plot propulsion; they swirl around in possessed yawn-inducing circles before finally arriving somewhere daft but entertaining.
The Rite’s Australian theatrical release date: March 10, 2011