The Rite

Believe or not, it has been 20 years since “The Silence of the Lambs” was released in theaters.  It’s true.  The movie came out in February 1991, and while most Oscar nominated movies comes out in the final quarter of the year, “The Silence of the Lambs” ended up dominating the Oscars.  Anthony Hopkins won the Oscar for Best Actor that year for his portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lector.  He would go on to play Hannibal two more times, in a sequel and a prequel, but has not really played a character that could be defined as “creepy” until now in “The Rite”.

The movie is inspired by true events, although the specific opening credit reads, “Suggested by the book by Matt Baglio”.  The story follows a young man on the verge of priesthood, Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue) who has lost his faith; there is even a question if he ever had it to start.  Before he is allowed to quit he is sent to Italy to study how to perform exorcisms.  He doesn’t believe in the devil or demons and thinks anyone who is “possessed” just needs some psychological help.  He is then introduced to Father Lucas Trevant (Hopkins) who has performed over 1000 exorcisms.  Slowly as Michael witnesses first hand of some possessed people he has a harder and harder time logically explaining what he sees.  He better find his faith quick as it appears that maybe Father Lucas himself may be possessed.


Director Mikael Håfström is no stranger delivering scares to a movie audience having directed “1408” based on the Stephen King short story and “Drowning Ghost” which was a slasher film made in his home country of Sweden. Most of the scary moments in this movie come from Anthony Hopkins performance or a few cheap “horror” scares like a cat suddenly jumping out at someone or the music suddenly becomes a high pitch. There is some bloodletting in this movie, but not much to satisfy a gore fan. The movie was never advertised as such so those people shouldn’t be expecting anything anyway. The movie’s pacing is slow, but that’s mostly due to Michael Petroni’s screenplay. It’s hard to find places where things could have been sped up.

The problem many people may have with this movie is that it can also feel like a two-hour commercial for the Catholic Church. The movie seems to want to get two messages across to audiences. The first is that there is a need for new priests and nuns. According one person in the movie the average age of a nun is 69 years old. At this point in the 21st Century it can be understandable, the only people who are signing up for the job are ones who were raised in deeply religious families. There are people out there like that, but apparently not enough.

The other message in this movie is that, since this is based on true events, the devil and demons do exist. Unless you want to burn in hell you better accept God and Jesus Christ and your lords and saviors. This is probably going to rub a lot of people the wrong way, but you have to take it with a grain of salt and try to watch the movie based on its entertainment value alone. In the end we’re all intelligent human beings, hopefully, and we can make our own decision on what we choose to believe and what not to believe on our own.