While attending college in the early 1970s, I got a job as an extra on “The Exorcist,” one of the most terrifying movies ever made. Ever since, I’ve been intrigued by films about demonic possession.
The latest is “The Rite,” starring Anthony Hopkins as a Vatican priest who’s the Babe Ruth of exorcisms and Colin O’Donoghue as his skeptical apprentice. Mikael Hafstrom’s supernatural thriller is a pale imitation of better, scarier exorcism films.
Irish actor O’Donoghue plays Michael Kovak, an American seminary student sent to the Vatican to study exorcism despite having doubts about the ancient practice. There he comes under the tutelage of Father Lucas (Hopkins), an irascible priest who has performed thousands of exorcisms.
Kovak watches as Father Lucas tries to drive the demons from a young pregnant girl who was raped by her father. She spits blood and speaks in an alien voice, but doesn’t spin her head or vomit pea soup a la “The Exorcist.”
During his stay in Rome, Kovak also befriends a journalist (Alice Braga) researching a story on the Vatican’s plan to place an exorcist in every diocese.
Nothing very interesting happens until the climactic scene, where Hopkins looks as if he’s imitating himself as the flesh-eating Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs.” His bulging-eyeball expressions are enough to make Satan wince.
“The Rite,” from Warner Bros. Pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: *1/2
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(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)