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Exorcism film doesn't deliver scares

Anthony Hopkins as Father Lucas in "The Rite."

Anthony Hopkins as Father Lucas in "The Rite."

  • Anthony Hopkins as Father Lucas in "The Rite."
  • Anthony Hopkins as Father Lucas in "The Rite."
  • The Rite
  • Colin O'Donoghue as Michael Kovak in "The Rite."
  • The Rite
  • The Rite
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It’s a shame that last year’s little film The Last Exorcism didn’t make more of a splash. It was good. It was certainly better than this year’s exorcism film – The Rite. That’s right, a big blockbuster with Anthony Hopkins that just doesn’t deliver.

When the movie starts, it states on the screen, “Suggested by the book.” What in the world does that mean?

It also says on the screen, “inspired by true events.” Well, what is “true” about the events? Yes, the Vatican does perform exorcisms. I wrote a story about a woman that worked as a nun for the Vatican for 20 years. She told me all about it. That doesn’t mean the people are really possessed by the devil. It just means the Vatican believes they are.

The person that wrote the book is even involved in some controversy about what really did and didn’t happen. An example: the scenes in this movie where a few possessed people throw up what look like really old nails (don’t you miss the good ol’ days of pea soup?). The author of the book said he never witnessed this; it was merely told to him.

I don’t need a movie about the devil to be “real” – just don’t have a bunch of silly stuff on the screen telling me what it’s loosely based on.

The story in this film involves a young man doubting the church. He’s played by Colin O’Donoghue, and this is his film debut. It’s got to be a thrill having your screen debut with an actor like Anthony Hopkins screaming in your face.

O’Donoghue basically used the church for a free college education, with no intention of becoming a priest. When told he’d have to pay back the $100,000 if he doesn’t become a priest, he decides to take the advice of a Priest that really likes him (no, not in that way). That advice is, go to Rome and work in the division that takes care of exorcisms. If he doesn’t like it, he’s told it’s a nice trip to Rome (no word on him having to pay that back if he still leaves the church).

Of course, once he’s there all hell breaks lose (so to speak).

He still has doubts when it comes to his faith, and he causes trouble with the questions he raises during classes.

He’s eventually sent to work with Hopkins, who he’s told is an unorthodox priest who has done a thousand exorcisms. And he does have some unorthodox methods. Some of those include answering a cell phone in the middle of an exorcism. You can’t blame him. It might be Beelzebub or someone he needs to talk to immediately.

Hopkins is good in the role, and tackled the material like a man possessed (sorry, that was easy). It would’ve been a lot more effective had we never seen him play Hannibal Lecter. I’m guessing most reviews will compare the two characters.

The movie is entertaining at times, but it has two big problems. One of those is that there’s nothing original here. We get all the stuff we see in other exorcism films, and it just losses the power it would have if you’re seeing this material for the first time.The second problem is that it’s just not scary. Sure, there’s nice atmosphere and the cinematography gave a creepy vibe. The locations used were perfect for the story. Why not have us jump out of our seat more than one time?

There are cats all around the Hopkins house, yet when they want an animal with red eyes to scare us, it’s a mule. I think a few people in the crowd laughed when they showed it up close.

Now, I remember a pig with red eyes in Amityville Horror that freaked me out. I guess the filmmakers just picked the wrong animal.

There are interesting scenes early on with Rutger Hauer (where has he been since his amazing performance in Blade Runner?). He’s O’Donoghue’s father and runs a mortuary out of the home (talk about a kid having nightmares and being afraid to walk down the halls at night). There weren’t any scary scenes there, though.

I also wondered why, when the protagonist goes on and on about how he doesn’t believe in a devil possessing people and that science and psychiatrists could explain all this behavior, why he doesn’t believe when a girl that doesn’t know English starts telling him stuff about his family and ex-girlfriend that nobody would know.

The movie is watchable, but I left the theatre disappointed.