As an ex-Catholic, I can appreciate a good movie involving Satin1 or his Minions. There are several reasons for this. For one thing, I get the jokes.2 Some of them are rather subtle and require an understanding of church dogma. Also, I can relate to the stranger side of the belief system from personal experience. When the book The Exorcist came out, everyone in my family read it, we all discussed it, and we considered the question: “Is it true or not?” And we decided that it was true. It probably helped that my cousin was a trained Exorcist, though I don’t believe he ever actually exorcised anyone. It is said, though, that he witnessed … strange things … when in Rome learning the craft.
My Great Aunt Tillie spoke of experiences, as a child, with poltergeists. When I had the mumps my grandmother sprayed me with holy water. We had a special cross on the wall with a compartment in the back of it holding holy candles, holy water, a bone chip of a saint’s femur, and instructions for both Extreme Unction and Exorcism. Just in case. We were trained not to use those rites but to meet the priest at the door carrying the candles, lit, inserted in the handy holes in the back of the cross, where we would say “He’s in there” pointing to the room with the dead person, or demonically possessed person, in it. As needed. The Rite is framed by these two rites, the Last Rites first and the Exorcism last. You’ll understand when you watch it. Nobody had any saint’s bones, though.
My appreciation for this sort of drama is helped by the fact that I grew up down the street from the grave of Hattie the Hitchhiker, and within sight of the famous Baptist Church where a woman’s hair turned white when the priest giving an unscheduled mass turned around and turned out to be the priest who had died the previous week, and just a few blocks from both the Ghost of Russel Sage and the Ghost of Cherry Hill. Ghosts overlap with Poltergeists, and Poltergeists overlap with Demons, and it was Demons what possessed Anthony Hopkins in the new movie The Rite.
Well, actually, it was one demon in particular, and one of the better ones. One you know. But I won’t tell you who because that would be a spoiler. I guessed before he was forced by the power of Jesus and stuff to reveal it. See if you can too!
The Rite is done just like the Exorcist. It is supposed to be real. They tell you in the beginning that “The story you are about to see is based on real events” and the tell you at the end “So and so now lives in Chicago and is an official Exorcist, and so and so still lives in Rome and has performed 2,000 exorcisms.”3 In between these truthy bookends is a tour de force of demonic activity, unrequited romance (he is an almost-priest after all), freaky family business (specifically, undertaking), and subtle but good special effects. And one mule with red eyes.
The central theme of the movie is the atheism of the younger of the two main characters, the almost-priest. And it is annoying that the movie ends with his atheism firmly denounced and his faith in the Catholic God affirmed. Well, he had to do that in order to defeat He Who’s Name is … (nope, I’m not telling). Yes, it was annoying, but that is the price one pays to watch a good possession flick.
So if you like movies based on The Dogma, this one has it’s strong points including some modernized dialog. If not, you might try something funnier, like my favorite Catholic movie ever made (Dogma).
The Rite, directed by Mikael Håfström, staring Colin O’Donoghue, Anthony Hopkins and Ciarán Hinds. At local theaters. Bring holy water.
1That one was for you, Bug Girl.
2Like the one about the Cherub, the Sebalim, and the Tapsarim that walked into the bar …. Also, see footnote 1.
3It isn’t real though. They actually tell you that in the fine print after they tell you it is real. I wonder how many people miss that.