The Rite Review

The Rite is a film of dissenting voices, much like every other film about exorcism. There’s doubt, a slow climb into demonic realities, and then the necessary conclusion where there can be no question as to its existence and we’re told it’s all true. Uh huh. You can plop Anthony Hopkins into a lot of things to give it credibility, but The Rite isn’t one of them.

So much of this film is spent detailing what exorcism is, Father Trevant (Hopkins) stating at one point that we shouldn’t expect, “heads turning and pea soup.” Then what does it do? Take the viewer through the turmoil of a young pregnant girl who twists, pops bones, and vomits nails.

As if there’s a difference between that and pea soup…

Still, there’s a hold out, an on again, off again priest Michael (Colin O’Donoghue) who becomes the familiar skeptic, the one character that relates to the audience. There’s well over an hour of this stuff, making it less and less likely that any of this is reasonably possible. Then, everyone is supposed to suck it up for the ending when veiny special effects take over and a character arc is complete. Sadly for The Rite, it’s not that simple.

Michael’s progression doesn’t feel paced, the realities of what he sees growing, but his beliefs remaining steadfast. It’s as if he decides to merely accept it anyway in the end because he has no other choice with regards to his future. The few legitimate questions Michael brings up in exorcism school (which yes, exists) are passed over, the film completely avoiding specific answers because that might ruin the millions spent on effects and gloomy sets. “Interesting” never fits into this one’s vocabulary, and mostly because of that one scene.

Exorcism is one of those popular fall backs when your current release slate calls for something scary, generally pushed out onto an audience with the studio desperately hoping some small time critic looking for their name in print calls it, “The best since The Exorcist!” In this case, just wait for the thrilling sequel, The Left, or maybe the thrilling 3D trilogy ender, L3ft or Rite?.

Movie ★★☆☆☆ 

This is one gloomy film, the Blu-ray courtesy of New Line/Warner. Lights are not popular, interiors barely lit with candles, and presentations inside the school muted to show, well, presentations. Unfortunately for this one, the black levels don’t quite have the fight in them they need, following the muted overall appearance. They exist in more of a murky brownish hue, excelling only in daylight.

Colors are equally meandering, the only saturation coming from that abominable orange and teal palette that should be excised from the annals of Hollywood forever. Flesh tones appear harshly bronzed, and the otherwise fine Roman photography tinted the same. People only wear blueish/teal clothing and own blueish/teal things, meaning that’s what the backgrounds always consist of. The assault on primary colors is insulting these days.

The Rite comes on a BD-50, the disc barely using enough space to justify the higher level disc, narrowly breaking 30GB. Say what you will about Warner compression, but at least here the grain structure is adequately resolved. It’s an insignificant factor, a nice glaze over the image that gives it a natural quality where everything else fails. The film looks overly filtered and a bit processed, medium shots flat, smooth, and rarely matching the close-ups. Even the latter tend to carry with them an inconsistency, and the special effects wreak havoc on texture. Hopkins doesn’t look possessed, he looks like wax.

Other technical faults including some rampant aliasing that tends to clear itself up (mostly) once the trip to Rome is finalized. Minor stuff like a laptop breaking up or the occasional desk remains a problem. Also, there are a multitude of ringing instances, the encode plagued with halos and other unsightly markings around certain edges. And all just when Warner seems to have put it all together… *sigh*

Video ★★★☆☆ 

While The Rite adores those ominous low-end drones to produce scares that are otherwise not included with this piece, they reach a breaking point during the finale. The demons begin slamming on a door, splintering the wood, and the bass production here is really something. The subwoofer generates a substantial shaking and rattling, nothing here held back.

Thankfully, it’s not overpowering, but merely effective. The chanting and swirling demonic voices remain prominent and precise, wrapping themselves around the listener with aggression. Even without bass, the DTS-HD audio is more than convincing, screams searing into the hallways of a hospital at 58:50.

There’s one other thing this mix does well and deserves credit for: rain. It’s a small touch sure, but the Roman walkways are regularly besieged by storms, the effect simply phenomenal. Water drips from the roofs, the sky, and various pipes, each effect distinct and identifiable. The stereos are forced into overtime here, as if they weren’t earlier on the streets at 17:08. Car horns light up the stereos, and passing motorists track properly. Sometimes, it really is the little things.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Soldier of God is the sole featurette here, not focusing on the film itself but the actual story that inspired the movie and the exorcism school. An alternate ending is a slight change that doesn’t give the main character some peace at the end, while some deleted scenes (12-minutes worth) are typical time killers. Warner’s standard BD-Live access remains.

Extras ★★☆☆☆