Posted on 2/10/11 02:04 PM
So my wife has an unusual love for movies about ghosts, possession, and the devil. When we saw the trailer for The Rite, I knew I would be seeing this film with her. We missed the release date so she looked that up when we got home and she read a press release on it. She told me that it didn't sound like it was going to be,"Green puke and heads twisting around." She really said that. I love her for things like that. Anyway, on opening night we found ourselves at the Emery Bay Theatre in Emeryville, CA. We got there early enough for the movie trailers because I am a new trailer junkie. First up was Priest. I need to read up on that. But I wasn't to thrilled. It reeked of bad. The second was Sucker Punch. Even though I have seen it (and posted it), this trailer was the herald of the marking blitz for the movie which means that the release is right around the corner. Releases March 25, 2011.
So I was about all of two minutes into this film and I realized something. All films about exorcism are basically "green puke and heads turning around." Well, maybe not exactly that (although many do have exactly that) but all of the typical cliches. Bad decay makeup, the perfunctory convulsing on a bed, a deep voice in an ancient language coming out of a girl, the played out special effect of something moving under the skin of the possessed. And this film had all that. And I knew it would. They all do. In fact, there was puke, although not green.
Then came the punchline. Anthony Hopkins plays a venerable exorcist who is, by the way, working a regular set of possessed people who come in for their weekly exorcism and colonic and then go back to their lives until next week's appointment. Okay, I was joking about the colonic but he really did see regular "patients" who were POSSESSED BY THE DEVIL. I never thought demonic possession as a chronic condition. Anyway, he is trying to convince the young priest who is disbelieving in demonic possession that it was real, and not like the movies, " There will be no spinning heads and pea soup." Later that night, I asked my wife if she was repeating that back from the press release. She wasn't. Its just that vomiting and contortion are so synonymous with exorcism movies that its one of the first things that enters the mind when they are discussed.
And this film had all of the cliches that I have listed above and not much more. No exorcism film ever has much more because frankly their isn't more to tell. The Exorcist pretty much covered everything that one needs to see on this topic. That's right, it was perfected on the first real try. In 1973. I know there are earlier exorcist films but The Exorcist started a sub-sub-genre: exorcism films. I started thinking of my top ten exorcism films of all time. I would have to include Rec even though we don't know that religion is involved until Rec2. I would want to include Repossessed even though it is a comedy. And on that note, technically Ghostbusters was about demonic possession. Then off course Seytan, The Devil Within Her, and I guess technically Rosemary's Baby. Oh and by the way, I having sorting this all out in my head...during the film. I never zone out during a film, I am there to absorb it. It speaks to this film that my mind actually wondered while watching it. It was the usual venerable master teaching the faithless student type of fare.
Which is something that really bugs me. I absolutely hate when film narratives take a ridiculous leap in logic. I call it "movie logic." In this case the young priest has decided to leave the church as he was only there to escape his father. So what does the church do, they send him the The Vatican to study EXORCISM? Yep, they give him a cherry assignment where he lacks the key element needed to do the job. I mean if there is one place where you really should have faith is when you are performing exorcisms, I suspect. I mean, if you are the church and you are dealing with the devil himself taking over a living persons body, right near the Vatican no less, wouldn't you send the most dedicated, righteous man that you have an not someone who is taking the job in lieu of resigning. It's the devil we are talking about here, wouldn't the church have a competent eye on that?
So the film carried on through the standard early signs of possession to a full on exorcism battle finale all while framed in the old, " Is this real? Do you have faith? What do YOU think?", heavy handedness.
There were a few cool images here and there. A red eyed mule created a nice image. The scenery in Rome is awesome, but the nice look of the film was not enough for me to forget the predictability and other flaws of the film.
What else...oh, Rutger Hauer is in it as the young priest's father. He is only in it for a few moments so I am not really sure what the value of having Hauer in it for such a short time.
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