Sunday, January 30, 2011

[REVIEW] - The Rite

Sometimes, all that’s really needed to brighten up a relatively slow, uninteresting, or just plain poor slump of movies, is a good old scare. There is nothing quite like, cheap or not, getting your pants scared off you to make the January doldrums a little less hard to take.

And then there are films like The Rite. Films that not only have no true reason for existence, but also shove your face into the mud that is the pile of dung left in the wake of Hollywood studios giggling all the way to the bank after dumping a load of cinematic crap right onto the proverbial chest of filmgoers. Films that take admittedly interesting plots, and turn them into unwatchable pieces of celluloid so easily, that you are left thinking that the filmmaker and the people involved have it out for the public.

Films that just simply do not work, on even the campiest of levels.

Films like The Rite.

Directed by Mikael Hafstrom, The Rite follows a young American priest, who, despite is floundering faith, decides to travel to Italy to study with the hopes of becoming an exorcist. After meeting a wayward exorcist, the young man must not only battle his own thoughts on faith, but some shockingly cliché and trite moments of wannabe horror.

When talking about horror films, while most of the focus may be on the ability of the film to truly scare you, what makes a good horror film just that, is the ability for the film to be economic in every sense of filmmaking. From the use of plot and dialogue, to the nature of the scares, the more economical the film, the better, just ask someone like Wes Craven. Red Eye is the perfect example of this.

And The Rite is the worst.

The film’s biggest flaw is that most of the film is simply either wholly cliché, or simply superficial. From the use of subtitles in a very specific and jarring classroom scene (the scene itself is used as nothing more than a plot point to bring our two students together), to entire scenes (I’m looking at you whoever added a scene of our lead pissing while being gawked at by a religious statue), the film is hilariously long. Clocking in at 112 minutes, the film could have stood the loss of a good thirty minutes, without much of an issue.

However, the longer length would have been understandable had the film been narratively or thematically compelling. The film relies heavily on previous exorcism films, even mentioning a point from one of the genre’s most iconic, and then scoffing at it, showing the audaciously large balls that this film unjustly believes it has. Our lead is unconvincing in his wavering faith, particularly when the falling action begins, and he is shown truly behind the curtain and to what’s going on here. The film leaves no doubt as to what has happened, thus giving us a clean ending, which for a film focusing so heavily on the idea of what it means to have faith, and what faith itself means, is really uninteresting and neo-repulsive.

That said, the film’s biggest sin may be placed on the film’s cast as a whole.

Starring Anthony Hopkins, Colin O’Donoghue and Alice Braga, the film lacks any performances worth their weight in method preparation, and while Hopkins does bring it home near the end (particularly with a thrust of the back of his hand near the end of the film, which is one of the film’s first and only inspired moments), it’s far too little, much too late. O’Donoghue lacks any depth as our lead, and is about as convincing in this role as yours truly would be in the role of a wooden block. Actually, that is the perfect role for O’Donoghue, come to think of it. Alice Braga is fine here, as she’s always a joy to watch on screen, but her character as a whole has little reason to exist, thus making all of her moments seem wholly false, and entirely superficial.

Director Hafstrom does the film no favors either. Visually as cliché as the film is narratively, The Rite has poor set design, and this sense of sterility in both its visual style directorially, as well as its style cinematically that really leaves you at arm’s length from the film. Clinically framed, Hafstrom does very little within the frame to excite the viewer, and does even less to leave you on the edge of your seat. For a horror/thriller, this film lacked any terror both on screen, and in the viewer’s mind, which is ultimately a problem found at the film’s very core.

Despite a few choice moments near the film’s conclusion, The Rite is one of the most superficial and long winded horror/thrillers I’ve seen in some time. A horror film without much horror, and a thriller without a single thrill, a film so focused on the concept of the questioning of faith, did instill that very thought in my mind. However, instead of questioning my religious faith, I was left questioning my faith in the world of modern horror filmmaking. Hell, humanity seems a little less honorable after this damn thing.

THE RITE - 2/10

Go see something good!

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