Does The Rite Have the Right Stuff?

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.

i-e86b2b79f43d25ba3da20c595464763a-posessedgirl.jpg

Scary-ass Possessed Pregnant Girl

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.

Comments

  1. #1 John Hynes
    January 29, 2011

    You might find this article at io9 interesting: Anthony Hopkins reveals the secret atheist message he put into The Rite

  2. #2 wrpd
    January 30, 2011

    Since when do Baptists have masses and priests?

  3. #3 Drivebyposter
    January 30, 2011

    Since when do priests magically transform into other, significantly more dead priests?

  4. #4 Russell
    January 30, 2011

    Many modern Americans count themselves Catholic, including large numbers of scientists, engineers, and physicians. Not to mention four of our Supreme Court justices. I’ve often wondered what fraction of educated Catholics buy into the more paranormal dogmas of the church, such as demon possession. Seems there ought to be some data on that, though I’ve never heard it.

  5. #5 kraut
    January 30, 2011

    I feel deprived. Even when I still was a catholic almost altar boy I never had any ghostly experiences, polter geists, demons trying to posess me, and I never seen a UFO although I spend hours upon hours driving through the winter nights in northern BC for over 25 years, working on industrial camps at night, or when hunting, sitting around a campfire.

    What the fuck is it with me – after over 60 years still no “supernatural” experience, although I spend over 1/2 year wandering through the Canadian Rockies and foothills with my wife.

    I am frustrated.

  6. #6 A Bear
    January 30, 2011

    You don’t have to be a Catholic priest to conduct exorcisms. Bob Larson, an evangelical,is an expert demonologist and veteran exorcist. Check out exorcist TV on boblarson.org.

  7. #7 peter
    January 30, 2011

    “You don’t have to be a Catholic priest to conduct exorcisms.”

    I bet you don’t.

  8. #8 peter
    January 30, 2011

    Instead of watching crap like rite and whatever religious propaganda movie, I rather spend two hours well wasted with CROSSROADS 2010, and listen Robert Randolph and Joe Bonamassa tearing a hole in the sky with Freddie King’s “Going Down>

  9. #9 Russell
    January 30, 2011

    Worry not, Peter. The Rite has only nominal appeal for anyone who was a teen when The Exorcist came out. And I thought that was pretty hokey, then.

  10. #10 Birger Johansson
    January 31, 2011

    “And I thought that was pretty hokey, then.”

    But Max von Sydow is always cool. And Peter Stormare as the Devil in Hellblazer is not bad either.

    Literature (like movies, but with letters and stuff): “Sandman Slim” is an urban gothic that actually got praise from William Gibson, and many others. Recommended.

  11. #11 Warren
    January 31, 2011

    “Well, he had to do that in order to defeat He Who’s Name is …”

    Wait. The priest was possessed by Voldemort?

  12. #12 Ron
    January 31, 2011

    DON’T SAY THE NAME!!!!

  13. #13 Rorschach
    January 31, 2011

    Eh, ‘Sandman Slim’ just struck me as really derivative. I’d prefer a ‘Dresden Files’ novel anyday.

  14. #14 Greg Laden
    February 1, 2011

    A review of a different movie of a similar nature: http://tinyurl.com/d3cvl6