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Mikael Håfström
Anthony Hopkins, Colin O'Donoghue, Alice Braga, Ciarán Hinds, Toby Jones, Rutger Hauer, Marta Gastini
Writing Credits:
Michael Petroni, Matt Baglio (book)

You can only defeat it when you believe.

Inspired by true events, this supernatural thriller follows a seminary student (Colin O’Donoghue) sent to study exorcism at the Vatican in spite of his own doubts about the controversial practice and even his own faith. Only when sent to apprentice with legendary Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), who has performed thousand of exorcisms, does his armor of skepticism begin to fall. Drawn into a troubling case that seems to transcend even Father Lucas’s skill, the young seminarian glimpses a phenomenon science can’t explain or control – and an evil so violent and terrifying that it forces him to question everything he believes.

Box Office:
$37 million.
Opening Weekend
$14.789 million on 2985 screens.
Domestic Gross
$33.037 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 114 min.
Price: $35.99
Release Date: 5/17/2011

• “The Rite: Soldier of God” Featurette
• Alternate Ending and Deleted Scenes
• Preview
• Digital Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Rite [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 99, 2011)

20 years ago, The Silence of the Lambs made Anthony Hopkins a household name at the age of 53. Since then? Well, he got a few more Oscar noms through the 90s but he eventually seemed to get stuck in a rut. Hopkins did a couple of Lambs-related flicks and a bunch of failed blockbusters like The Wolfman but not much to recommend him as a great actor.

Well, I guess those flicks paid the rent, and that’s the category into which 2011’s The Rite falls. Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue) grows up the son of a mortician (Rutger Hauer). Rather than join the family business, he decides to attend seminary school.

Four years later, Michael finds himself without the requisite faith to take his vows. Father Matthew (Toby Jones) tells him to go through one more program before he makes a formal decision, and this sends Michael to Rome to study exorcism rites. There he gets connected to Father Lucas Trevant (Hopkins) and becomes the priest’s apprentice.

Like every other movie that deals with this subject matter, The Rite needs to confront the elephant in the room: 1973’s The Exorcist. It set the standard for the genre and remains the template, a fact that Rite essentially acknowledges in an early scene; Father Trevant refers to spinning heads and “pea soup” as a nod to the film. Of course, this is presented in a semi-disparaging way; it’s meant to convey that Michael will witness the “real deal”, not some fantasy version of exorcisms.

Never having actually witnessed an exorcism myself, I can’t say which movie “gets it right”, but The Exorcist offers by far the more entertaining experience. And though I doubt those behind Rite would like to admit it, the earlier film offers a story that it tends to emulate. A whole lot of themes/character elements from Exorcist tend to pop up here, mainly due to the focus on Michael’s journey. Like Father Karras from the older flick, Michael doubts his faith and doesn’t believe in exorcisms; heck, Michael even has issues related to dead parents!

This doesn’t make Rite an Exorcist-clone, but it’s a little too close for comfort. Granted, Rite comes based on true events, so it lacks a ton of wiggle room, but then again, the movie claims to be nothing more than “suggested by” the source, so it could’ve avoided all the Exorcist echoes if it so desired.

Even if I ignore the film’s derivative nature and take it on its own merits, The Rite doesn’t work especially well. Actually, the first act becomes pretty interesting, as our early introduction to the characters and exorcisms has merit. Hopkins makes Father Trevant a reasonably engaging character and he adds some spark to the proceedings.

As the movie progresses, though, it tends to falter. The film simply becomes too much of a stock horror flick, and it loses much sense of logic. Admittedly, it doesn’t stand on firm ground from the start, but it goes even farther astray as it progresses.

This seems especially true as Michael’s continued disbelief stretches credulity. Dude, some Italian girl quotes innuendo you heard from an old flame – and does it in that chick’s voice – but you still think there’s a scientific explanation? I’m skeptical about demons and possessions myself, but if I hear Potsie from Happy Days croon out of the mouth of a four-year-old donkey, I’m going to become a believer!

Even without these issues, the emphasis on standard horror movie tricks gets tedious. Part of the beauty of The Exorcist was the cool, deliberate manner it told its story; it didn’t resort to gimmicks. On the other hand, Rite becomes almost nothing other than gimmicks as it progresses, and they follow the law of diminishing returns.

As far as exorcist movies go, I couldn’t call The Rite a bad effort; heck, it’s better than most of the official sequels to The Exorcist. Nonetheless, it’s pretty lackluster and rarely more than a generic horror flick.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus C-

The Rite appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Much of the movie looked fine, but some weaknesses emerged.

Actually, my only real complaint focused on shadow detail. The movie featured a lot of low-light sequences, and it tended to be tough to make out the information in these. While I suspect some of this was a cinematographic choice, I thought it went too far; viewing dark scenes became a bit of a chore.

Otherwise, the image was positive. For the most part, sharpness looked good. Interiors occasionally displayed light softness, but those instances remained modest. The majority of the movie seemed concise and well-defined. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, and edge enhancement didn’t affect the movie. Print flaws also failed to mar the image.

In terms of colors, Hereafter opted for a cool palette. It usually went with an teal tint at most; its tones stayed fairly chilly and desaturated throughout the film, and an amber flavor became apparent. This meant the hues were subdued but fine given the stylistic choices. Blacks were fairly dark and tight. Between the occasional softness and the muddy nature of the shadows, this was a “B-“ image.

I gave the same grade to the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of The Rite, and also largely due to one specific weakness. In this case, my dissatisfaction related to dialogue, as the movie suffered from some of the most canned-sounded speech I’ve heard in a while. The lines often really felt like they’d been recorded in a studio; they didn’t connect with the visuals well and became a distraction. While they were always intelligible, the lack of natural dialogue was a problem.

Everything else worked fine. Music was concise and dynamic, with good punch. Effects presented accurate elements with nice bass response when appropriate.

The soundfield itself followed pretty standard horror movie material. Much of the flick went with general atmosphere, but the “scare moments” opened up the track well. Those used the side and surround channels to provide creepy and/or startling elements, and these gave the mix some life. Without the poorly-recorded speech, this would’ve been a much better track.

Only a handful of extras show up here. The Rite: Soldier of God goes for six minutes, 40 seconds and provides notes from exorcists Father Gary Thomas and Father Aldo Buonaiuto, The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist author Matt Baglio, producers Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson, director Mikael Håfström, and actors Anthony Hopkins and Colin O’Donoghue. The featurette looks at the realities of modern exorcisms as well as some aspects of the film’s creation. The show’s too short to offer much detail, but I like the info from the author and the story’s real-life inspirations.

We also get an Alternate Ending (1:41) and Deleted Scenes (12:39). The Blu-ray’s packaging refers to the alternate ending as “chilling”, but I think of it more as “obvious opening for a sequel”. It’s not especially interesting.

As for the others, one shows Michael’s chat with his father about his “calling”. The rest let us see more of Michael’s relationship with Father Trevant, his connection to the reporter, and a nightmare. The scene between Michael and Trevant has merit just because it helps set up a later sequence, but the others aren’t particularly useful.

The disc launches with a promo for The Green Lantern. No trailer for The Rite shows up here.

The set ends with a Digital Copy of The Rite. As usual, this lets you easily transfer the film to a computer or portable viewing gizmo. If that’s your bag.

As for as exorcism movies go, The Rite is middle of the pack. It doesn’t remotely approach the greatness of The Exorcist but it beats many of its competitors – albeit in an inconsistent, borderline schlocky way. The Blu-ray comes with decent but occasionally flawed picture and audio as well as some minor supplements. Fans of this supernatural genre may want to give The Rite a look, but they shouldn’t expect much from it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.3333 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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