Warner Home Video
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Colin O'Donoghue, Alice Braga, Rutger Hauer
Extras: Additional Scenes, Alternate Ending, Featurettes
Every couple of years a film about exorcism appears that tries to fill a gap that has been created by the massive boots that William Friedkin's "The Exorcist" has left for filmmakers to fill since 1973. Just like no one really tackles shark movies successfully, no one can do a movie about exorcism without immediately inviting comparisons. Nonetheless, "The Rite" looked like a promising candidate and I took a look at the film when it arrived on my desk.
Michael Kovak(Colin O'Donoghue) does not want to continue his father's business as an undertaker. Since everyone in his family is either an undertaker or a priest, he decided to become a priest instead. However, lack of faith and his ever-present questions for truth make him a bad theology student. Just as the young man made up his mind to resign from priesthood, he is approached by his superior who suggests Michael take a course in exorcism, a profession that was desperately needed by the Church since possessions were on the rise.
Unconvinced, Michael attends the lectures at the Vatican, still filled with the same doubts when Father Xavier (Ciarán Hinds) suggests he visits Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins). Father Lucas, as it turns out is a practicing exorcist who has dealt with driving out demons for over 30 years. will he be able to convince Michael of the existence of good and evil?
To say "The Rite" is a rip-off of "The Exorcist" would be going to far, but it is quite evident that the movie certainly does riff on the themes established by William Friedkin's horror classic and even copies certain story elements, such as the priest experiencing a loss of faith who is put on the spot and has to drive out the devil, or the guilt of abandoning a parent, for not being there when the parent dies, being haunted by the pain, the old, experienced exorcist who is torn between fits of faith and questioning God following success and failure in his profession.
Fortunately, "The Rite" dos not go as far as copying things such as the spinning head or the pea-soup spitting — in fact it mocks it at one point — but still, the imagery presented during the exorcisms, the trash talk, the physical manifestations of the demon etc. are all there.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed the movie's quiet tone, the questioning of the subject matter. Never trying to be sensational, the film slowly builds all the way to the predictable but nonetheless powerful finale. For me it is the way how the story was told that made it intriguing and not so much the story itself.
Warner Home Video is presenting "The Rite" in a 1080p high definition transfer on this disc and as expected, the film is absolutely clean and free of blemishes. The imagery in the movie can get very dark and contains a bit of noticeable grain in certain scenes, all in order to create a sense of grittiness and urgency. It works very well and again and again I found myself admiring the beautiful cinematography of the movie. Overall, the definition of the transfer is masterfully restored, giving you a full high definition treat with plenty of detail to boot.
A DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio track accompanies the film that is powerful and balanced. With active surrounds, the film will startle you on occasion but will never get annoyingly loud. The balance in the mix is always maintained, making for a great presentation. Solid bass extension and clear high ends make sure every detail is transparent and clearly coming through.
Among the extras on the release you will find additional scenes, as well as an alternate ending.
Seeing as the movie was inspired by true events — or so they claim — you will also find "Soldier of God" on the disc, a featurette about the Father Gary Thomas, whose life events have inspired the movie. Also included are eye witness accounts of actual exorcisms.
"The Rite" brings nothing new to the table, really. It dabbles in the same field as every other movie on the subject since "The Exorcist," but I found this film nonetheless intriguing and entertaining, so check it out if you see it somewhere.