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An American seminary student travels to Italy to take an exorcism course.
For more about The Rite and the The Rite Blu-ray release, see the The Rite Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on May 2, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Mikael Håfström
Writer: Michael Petroni (II)
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Colin O'Donoghue, Alice Braga, Ciarán Hinds, Toby Jones, Rutger Hauer
» See full cast & crew
The Rite Blu-ray Review
"Do you believe in sin?"
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, May 2, 2011
Horror films with taglines like "what follows is inspired by true events" should be relegated to a genre all their own. Whenever "based on a true story" flickers across the screen accompanied by unsettling atmospheric music, it ceases to matter whether the frightfest that's about to unfold is really based on actual events or not. True-event taglines have become little more than a cheap gimmick; a stab at scaring savvy genre audiences who might not tremble if skepticism runs too rampant. God forbid a filmmaker invest his efforts in making a horror film... I don't know, horrifying. Oh, The Rite has chills and startles aplenty, some more effective than others. But in an effort to de-sensationalize a mysterious practice Hollywood has obsessed over since Linda Blair's head first spun some thirty-eight years ago, director Mikael Håfström and screenwriter Michael Petroni fail to stir up any real scares. At least none that resonate or linger after The Rite has run its serviceable supernatural course.
"There are times when I experience a total loss of faith... days, months when I don't know what the hell I believe in, God or the Devil, Santa Claus or Tinker Bell. But I'm just a man. A weak man. I have no power. Yet there's something that keeps digging and scraping away inside of me. Feels like... God's fingernail. And finally I can take no more of the pain and I get shoved out from the darkness, back into the light."
Based on The Making of a Modern Exorcist, journalist Matt Baglio's non-fiction account of 21st Century Vatican exorcism training, The Rite follows a young, tragically disillusioned seminary student named Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue, The Tudors) who travels to Rome, despite his waning faith, to attend an exorcism school at the behest of his counselor, Father Matthew (Toby Jones, Frost/Nixon). But while the material he's soon subjected to raises questions in his heart and mind, Michael remains unsure and racked with doubt. That all changes though when he begins an apprenticeship of sorts with an veteran exorcist, Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs). The grizzled priest has experience dealing with demons and skeptics, yet has struggles all his own. As strange events begin to occur, Michael questions his faith and future, Father Lucas questions his abilities, and both men face forces powerful enough to cripple their spirits and souls.
Oddly enough, the creepiest stretch of The Rite is also its most academic. Michael's exorcism classes are as strangely matter-of-fact as they are disarming and unnerving. Seven rows of solemn students, from all walks of life, flinch and squirm as photographs and videos of exorcisms are projected before them. They aren't privy to actual demonic victims or experiences, just the cold, impersonal accounts of each one in a state-of-the-art, technologically advanced classroom. Imagine surgeons learning everything they need to know about heart transplants from a video monitor and a series of lectures, and you'll understand just how peculiar and eerie the entire scenario seems. Unfortunately, Håfström squanders the hair-raising undercurrent he generates in these early scenes the moment Father Lucas takes a quick cell phone call in the middle of an exorcism. And nope, that isn't a typo. It worsens as Michael begins witnessing Father Lucas's trade, a quasi-cinematic dry heave of rituals that combine familiar tricks-of-the-genre-trade and more obscure tidbits lifted from Baglio's book. The introduction of a fellow school skeptic, played with lax indifference by Predators' Alice Braga, doesn't help. As contrived exposition funnels go, her character adds little to the narrative and only serves to complete the film's skeptic trinity.
Still, the exorcism sequences -- one that centers around a pregnant teen with a penchant for coughing up blood-slathered nails (Marta Gastini) and another involving a surprising turn of events (avoid the film's theatrical trailer if you want to remain in the dark) -- will send shivers down a fair share of spines, and the tough-love mentorship that develops between O'Donoghue and Hopkins (albeit at an artificially accelerated pace) laces Håfström's quieter scenes with potent subtlety. That said, it's Petroni's languid script that, for better or worse, lords over every scene. His dialogue, desperate and suitably devilish as it is, rings true, even if the finer points of his plotting tend to suffer in the ensuing spiritual melee. His flawed saints and ancient evils serve the story well, two-dimensional moralizing and all. And his first two acts unravel with increasing tension, despite the fact that his climactic endgame falls prey to convention and genre-pic malaise. Hopkins lets his inner madman peek out of the cupboard, O'Donoghue does his best to step out of the once-and-future Hannibal Lecter's shadow, and Ciarán Hinds, Rutger Hauer, Gastini and Jones make the most of limited screentime and underdeveloped characters.
The Rite isn't a blood-curdling shocker, doesn't reinvent the Exorcist wheel, and will fade from memory before the break of dawn. It's a slick but sleepy, decent but derivative horror flick in need of a savior.
The Rite Blu-ray, Video Quality
With shadows draped across every weary brow and darkness mounting an assault on every corner, The Rite's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer could have been an impenetrable presentation. Yet aside from a fair amount of crush, the image doesn't suffer for Håfström's bleakest sins. Skintones are lifelike and well-saturated, primaries exude real-world confidence, and black levels are deep and foreboding. Detail is thoroughly satisfying as well, even though some filmic softness and some less-than-sophisticated CG effects serve as occasional distractions. Textures aren't always razor sharp but they are quite rewarding, edge definition is crisp and clean (without the use of any unsightly edge enhancement) and delineation is as proficient as can be expected from a film of its ilk. Moreover, Warner's technical encode excels. Brief surges of unobtrusive noise and minor banding aside, compression anomalies, severe ringing, aliasing, smearing and other issues are nowhere to be found. All things considered, The Rite is a horror-lovin' videophile's answer to prayer.
The Rite Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Rite's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track raises Hell, the dead and everything in between. Whether Michael is pushing through the crowded streets of Rome, sitting in the center of a vast Vatican auditorium, listening to the tortured screams of the possessed, quietly conversing with Father Lucas in private, or recoiling as an unholy evil abuses its helpless victim in a small, dusty upper room, Warner's mix never relents. Rear speaker activity is incredibly involving and perfectly immersive, and startling directional effects, arresting ambience, eerily transparent pans and enveloping acoustics lend each locale frightening atmosphere and a convincing sense of space. The LFE channel matches the soundfield's precision with raw power, granting the film's spine-bending exorcisms, hell-born chaos and skin-crawling score legitimate heft and presence. Dialogue isn't nearly as impeccable -- a handful of lines are overwhelmed in the ensuing supernatural madness -- but it remains crisp, intelligible and smartly prioritized on the whole. Ultimately, I expected The Rite's exorcisms to impress; I just didn't expect the entire experience to so readily and effortlessly draw me in.
The Rite Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Rite materializes on Blu-ray without any substantial supplements to its name. A brief featurette, an alternate ending and a handful of deleted scenes are a welcome addition, but a Maximum Movie Mode, production documentary or other more significant special features would have gone a long way.
The Rite Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Rite is yet another valiant but half-hearted attempt to scare modern viewers as badly as The Exorcist scared audiences in the early '70s. It fails in many regards, despite offering a pair of solid performances, a somewhat unique twist on a tired cinematic tale, and some of the best exorcism sequences to grace a PG-13 film. But it still has enough to offer genre fans to make for a decent rainy day rental. Warner's Blu-ray release is more satisfying, but only in part. While it boasts a strong video transfer and excellent DTS-HD Master Audio mix, its supplemental package is a 22-minute disappointment. Some will undoubtedly enjoy The Rite more than I did. Others will be happy they relied on their Netflix queue or turned to their local Red Box kiosk.
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The Rite Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray - May 17-23 - May 17, 2011
Jason Statham is a pure badass, and thankfully he knows it. You won't see him pulling a Tooth Fairy or a Jingle All the Way; nope, he knows who he is and not even an Allstate Insurance homage can water down the intensity that is Stathum.
• Exclusive Giveaway: The Rite - May 10, 2011
Blu-ray.com, in conjunction with Warner Home Video, is giving three Blu-ray.com members an opportunity to win a Blu-ray copy of director Mikael Håfström's The Rite, starring Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs), Colin O'Donoghue (The Tudors) and Alice Braga (Predators). ...
• The Rite Blu-ray Announced - March 15, 2011
Warner Home Video has announced The Rite for Blu-ray release on May 17, in a BD/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack. This atmospheric horror movie, directed by Mikael Håfström, centers around a seminary student who is sent to apprentice with a famous exorcist, played by ...
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