Movies have subgenres, not subgenera.
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"NOT BELIEVING IN THE DEVIL WON’T PROTECT YOU FROM HIM."
In 1973, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist set up the main bases of the possession and exorcism subgenus which has been repeated since ad nauseam. What became interesting in Friedkin’s movie was its serious tone for this horror tale in a way it was possible not to consider the story as a fantastic one despite it was.
Lately, we have been able to see quite a lot of movies related to possessions and/or exorcisms; some of them have even taken advantage of the genre vogue adding the word “possession” in their title despite the fact that their contents had nothing to do with what audiences were expecting. Between the offer in 2010, we could have seen “The possession of David O’Relly” (which is not what it seems), “Exorcismus”, or “The Last Exorcism”, pictures with very tight budged that have tried to bring in new points of view, mainly from the formal side, but with mixed fortune. To this category, we can include The Rite, Swede Mikel Hafström’s made in Hollywood production, who was already familiar with horror genre by directing Sweden “Drowning Gosht” and the American and far more successful “1408”.
“The Rite” is haunted by the will to get a truthful story audiences could buy, by the need its tale be taken seriously despite the improbability of it. That’s why this classical production is centered in elaborating atmosphere to be credible, all details as for setting, locations, photography, and mise-en-scene being extremely attended. Inside the movie, appropriate messages are also trhown in order to get this credibility: Father Lucas says “not believing in the Devil won’t protect you from Him,” or “what was you expecting? Heads turning around and green foam?” But suddenly, it seems as if Hafström or the producers thought actual facts were not enough, and before arriving at the half of the movie it betrays itself. Then, the sense of reality becomes infected by fiction viruses and, after the first truthful exorcism try, we evolve untill a climax in which the story has too much fictitious elements reinforced by fx (usually, not a lot of them but at the end), blood vomits, otherworldly voices, impossible body postures, fantastic phenomena, red eyes of Lucifer’s horse, girl’s sexual insinuations to the priest, insults, and all the clichés popular belief connects with possessions and exorcisms thanks to Mr. Friedkin.
To reinforce this story which is more than dubitable, with its too-much-words deployment and few things to really say, and that drifts between vagueness and lack of guts (film doesn’t stop flattering Vaticano as if fearing what it may say), Hafström counts on the very vet Anthony Hopkins to almost ensure box office incomes from middle viewer. Nevertheless, Hopkins’ work, magnificent as always, and histrionic as lately, seems to be a mix of his Dr. Lecter and his Dr. Van Helsing. No doubt Hopkins makes his character works perfectly, achieving the wanted effect, but Alicia Braga’s character has no clear purpose, and is acted in an anodyne way; she is expendable and her presence only seems to search Vaticano’s relish by giving, indirectly, an open image of it. Braga circumscribes herself to go along with a young priest who is not hesitating about faith but lacking it completely. Young O’Donell, an absolutely film newcomer, fits his task easily without any big acting rotundity. He is even with great Hopkins, and that’s quite remarkable in a newcomer. In short, what we have here is sketched characters drawn by rough brushstrokes who unbelievably work, some better than others, and who are extremely plain taking into account the conflicts and reflections they pretend to face.
All in all, maybe we have to admit the movie faces some jeopardy by putting in children facing delicate situations as incest, a possessed young girl who is pregnant, ill-treatments… Nowadays, showing youngsters to violence in the silver screen is extremely daring, and it has to be recognized as risky even in a mainstream movie.
Among the much questions I rise, here are some: ¿Is The Rite pretending to state Western World is needing an exorcism? ¿Is corruption and evilness even in those entities thought sacred, as Church or children? ¿Is the movie talking on faith against lack of it? ¿Have values of our society fallen into doom (of course they already had in past decades -needed not to forget it-) as the family values, the regard for human life, etc...? In any case, the movie doesn’t answer any of these questions, and the only one it insinuates is more than dubitable, at least according to this your humble servant, not a religious man.
In short, The Rite is a work closer to a religious drama and suspense than to horror. It’s the mainstream (of course) answer to this subgenus of possessions and exorcisms, an anodyne movie that does take part neither in the genre nor in the questions it proposes.
Movies have subgenres, not subgenera.
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