2011 Running time: 113 Certificate: 15 Not yet rated

Synopsis

In devilish chiller The Rite, newcomer Colin O'Donaghue - star of TV's The Tudors - plays Father Michael Kovak, a reluctant Chicago student priest who is despatched to Rome where he is instructed by experienced exorcist, Father Lucas Trevant (Anthony Hopkins). Sceptical and truculent, his disbelief soon disappears when he faces the cold reality of evil and demonic possession. Religious horror from Swedish director Mikael Hafstrom.

Director

  • Mikael Hafstrom

Cast

  • Anthony Hopkins

  • Colin O'Donoghue

  • Alice Braga

  • Ciaran Hinds

  • Rutger Hauer

Review

What with the child abuse scandal, Rome's attitude to women priests rumbling on and its Third World contraception policy causing a stir, you'd have thought the last thing the Catholic Church would concern itself with would an exorcist.

But the Vatican moves in mysterious ways...and in 2007 it announced it was going to reinstruct the clergy on the rites of exorcism with the ultimate goal of installing a holy water sprayer in every diocese worldwide.

In Swedish director Mikael Hafstrom's deadpan horror, American seminary student Michael Kovak (O'Donoghue) is despatched to Rome when he makes it clear that he was only training to become a priest to avoid his grim mortician dad (Hauer) and have four more years at college.

Ciarin Hinds' stern Vatican exorcism specialist sees straight through him and sends him off to see Father Lucas (Hopkins), a crabby Welsh Jesuit who lives in a cat-infested courtyard and has spent years demon-ridding.

Before you can say "swivelling head" Michael is the sceptical witness as a businesslike Lucas attempts to cleanse a young, pregnant Italian mother of a salty demon who whispers obscenities to her every waking hour.

However, Michael isn't convinced and suggests that the terrified host - who he establishes was raped by her father and is carrying his child - should be dealt with by a shrink...not a priest.

Hafstrom plays things pretty straight, avoiding the barking implausibility of The Da Vinci Code and questioning the flakey use of unprovable exorcism against cold, hard rationality.

For his part, Hopkins wheels out a holy version of Hannibal Lecter for the climax - mercifully free of OTT special effects - which sounds like an ecclesiastical dust-up up in an Aberystwyth Chapel.

Never truly scary it's nevertheless an original treatment of a theme that was lauded by American bishops for "resoundingly affirming faith and the value of priestly ministry."

They didn't say that about The Sin Eater.