Even demons and the undead have in-laws, and this fact prevented us from having a communicative holiday weekend with our readers. For that, we apologize and wish you a belated Merry Krampus. But on with the review...
The Rite is packaged like an unoriginal mainstream horror film with an aging name in the lead role as a vehicle. In this case, it is the almost-always brilliant Anthony Hopkins, whose innate ability to come across as intimidating and psychologically abhorrent makes him a natural for the horror genre. Obviously his role in Silence of the Lambs set him apart from other great actors who have taken on similar works, and it has made him an easy choice to pop in for a role or two that may take advantage of his detestable side.
When it comes to the movie itself, it is rather unspectacular and forgettable. The plot isn't particularly interesting or fresh. Our protagonist struggles in his belief and faith, especially in such things as the Occult and supernatural entities that have an affinity for possession, but through the course of the film it is revealed that the world houses dark forces. Take the priesthood out of it and it's every mainstream horror film out there. Put the priesthood in it and it's every mainstream exorcist movie out there.
Sadly, very little outside of Hopkins' performance is brought to the table with any ferocity. While the film plods along at an eerie pace, nothing really happens until our climactic battle with the possessed Anthony Hopkins. Even then it would seem a bit repetitive and derivative of most exorcism moments.
One interesting aspect is how the demon chooses to attack and how it focuses on its enemies. Though it displays as a physical threat, the demon spends most of its time focusing on the sin and guilt of the exorcist and his assistant, particularly in the final battle. The way it all plays out, it is one of the more blatant horror entries that focuses on spiritual morality as a thing with consequences and life-altering importance. Of course, the primary reason this path is rarely used is because its ambiguity in American culture makes it less threatening and apparent. But, an interesting take nonetheless.
Lacking in true scares and missing the mark on developing atmosphere, The Rite is for cult fans of Anthony Hopkins' evil incarnate and little more. The film isn't necessarily poorly made, but it's lack of success in horror, when that is clearly the category it was designed for, makes it more of a bore than a recommended watch.