Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Video review: "The Rite"

"The Rite" is pretty much a one-trick pony: What if the exorcist became possessed himself?

Nearly 40 years after Linda Blair shocked audiences with some demonic neck-twisting and pea soup spewing, we've seen virtually every iteration of the exorcism routine. "The Rite," based on a nonfiction book by Matt Baglio, aims to drag exorcism into the 21st century by basing itself on real cases of demonic possession chronicled by the Catholic church.

Except... it's not real, really. The character Baglio used as his main character was a middle-aged priest, not a handsome young seminary student (Colin O'Donoghue) doubting his faith. And his mentor in the ways of exorcism (Anthony Hopkins) did not fall victim to possession himself.

So, "The Rite" is a mix of real-world religious lore and Hollywood hooey. I wouldn't mind the sham, except the end result is generally not very compelling, except for some nice scenery-chewing by Hopkins in the latter section where his eyes change color and his skin goes blotchy and cracked (well, more so).

This is a PG-13 horror film -- a contradiction in terms to purists like myself -- so the violence and taunting of religious mores never goes too far over the edge. It's Blasphemy Lite.

Extra features are nothing special. If you buy the DVD version, all you'll get are a handful of deleted/extended scenes totaling about 13 minutes, none of which is terribly consequential.

If you upgrade to the DVD/Blu-ray combo pack, you'll get a few more goodies, including an alternate ending with a creepier flavor, and a digital copy of the film.

A nearly 7-minute making-of featurette is interesting insofar as it introduces the real priest Baglio based his book on, and demonstrates how far afield the movie travels from it. In fact, the journalist character representing Baglio himself is changed to a hot Italian woman for O'Donoghue to make moony eyes at.

Movie: 1.5 stars out of four
Extras: 2 stars

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