The Rite follows the story of Colin O’Donoghue as Michael Kovak, a mortician that works out of the home with his father Istvan Kovak (Rutger Hauer). After getting tired of his boring life and wanting to attend college but lacking the funds to do so, he sets out for seminary school with hopes of dropping out at the end of the four years – and scoring a free education. Of course, this doesn’t work out like he planned, and instead gets sent to stay with an unorthodox exorcist priest in Italy named Father Lucas, played exceptionally well by Anthony Hopkins. There he goes through the hard knock lessons of becoming an exorcist while also learning to believe in both the good and evil of the supernatural.
I didn’t think I would enjoy The Rite as much as I did, but I have to agree with my editorial comrade Chris Pandolfi on this one. It’s a pretty good movie that’s more drama / thriller than horror, and manages to pull it off in both an entertaining and respectful way. When Pandolfi reviewed the theatrical version last January he came away equally-impressed, and here’s his synopsis (you can check out his full review HERE):
“The central conflict between faith and rationality builds to a development that the ad campaign has unfortunately spoiled. I will not play along, for it’s certainly possible you managed to avoid it. I will say that the film is suspenseful, engaging, and wonderfully shot, with Ben Davis’ cinematography creating an atmosphere that rival most horror movies. The performances are also decent; Hopkins is surprisingly compelling, in large part because he goes against convention and keeps his character relatively grounded. The Rite was directed by Mikael Håfström, whose previous film, the highly effective 1408, was also about a man coming to terms with the unexplainable. His new movie isn’t as consistently frightening, but then again, that really wasn’t the point. He’s tackling a subject that for some people is real, and his approach is both entertaining and respectful.”
I felt the same after watching the movie on Blu-ray, which brings the experience home in all its full high-definition glory. As with most of Warner Bros’ Blu-ray releases, the video and audio are both great. The video is razor sharp, even while most scenes take place either at night or in dark rooms, everything shows up clearly like it should (usually a problem with movies with lots of black and darker settings). The audio is great as well, enhancing the already spooky atmosphere with it’s six-channel, 24-bit DTS-HD audio. While the dialogue can sound a bit muted at times, the sound-effects come in loud and clear, especially when dealing with the growls and demonic voices from the first possessed lady in the film.
There aren’t many special-features included, sadly, which is a shame for all the space on a Blu-ray. There’s about twelve minutes of delete scenes, the requisite alternate ending that’s not quite as chilly as the front cover states (there’s like a five-second difference from the theatrical ending), and a seven-minute featurette called “The Rite: Soldier of God”, where viewers get to meet Father Gary Thomas, the Vatican-ordained exorcist whose life story inspired the film. He talks about the signs of demonic possession, his mentor, and how the movie version of his life came together. It’s kind of sad the feature didn’t go into more detail with him, such as asking about his own personal experiences with exorcisms, etc.
While it might be far from perfect, The Rite on Blu-ray is still a pretty good film that’s easy to recommend, especially to all the curious Anthony Hopkins fans, as well as anyone looking for the latest addition to the popular exorcism genre. I thought it would be some long, dragged out version of the The Exorcist, but I’m glad to say that I was proven wrong. While not as scary as that perennial classic, especially as some scenes tend to drag and a somewhat stiff lead in Colin O’Donoghue, the film still manages to pull off the difficult combo of mixing drama with supernatural thrills, particularly thanks to Hopkins great portrayal of Father Lucas. The lack of real special-features is disappointing, although the included mini-documentary about Father Gary Thomas (whom the film is based on) makes this a decent addition to your library.