Film Comment: Spare us from horror movies as lazy as The Rite

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Now I have entered the no-work haven of the Summer months, I have been catching up on some films I missed when they were released in cinemas. The latest bunch of films I have greedily consumed includes The Rite, an exorcism horror film. It tries its best at being both a thought-provoking story about the more controversial corners of the Catholic Church and a mainstream popcorn movie. Deep questions about faith and science are asked, but the lazy scares of the crude manufactured horror film are never far away.

Mikael Hafstrom, director of the Stephen King adaptation 1408, is a highly competent director and has a good eye for the bizarre whilst still making everything look gorgeous. His cinematographer, the highly skilled Brit Ben Davis who recently worked on The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, stops the film from becoming boring. Sadly such talent is, however, restricted by an utterly preposterous screenplay.

Casting Anthony Hopkins as an exorcist working in Rome could have worked well, but I couldn’t shake off the suspicion that he was just as bemused as I was at the quality of the words he was saying.

Irish actor Colin O’Donoghue, playing an American sent to assist Hopkins with his devil-fighting, is a dead weight. He looks very pretty, though. Maybe modelling would be more up his street.

Overall, the most disappointing thing about The Rite is that it conforms to the arrogant superficiality of the modern Hollywood horror blockbuster. It is doesn’t do wonders with its ridiculous subject matter – it just packages up the ridiculousness and passes it off as entertainment without doing anything very interesting with it.

The Rite (2010), directed by Mikael Hafstrom, is distributed on blu-ray disc and DVD by Warner Bros. Pictures, Certificate 15. 

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Second year BA Film & English Student. Watches too many films and enjoys good novels.

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