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My name is Makaylee! I am going to be a senior majoring in Social Media Design Management. I am apart of the Phi Sigma Sigma Sorority chapter on campus! I love thrifting, photography, skiing and going...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

‘Rite’ skeptical of exorcism stereotypes

There are movies in nearly every genre of film that are defined as the archetype, movies that stand as the blueprint for every film that attempts to follow it. In 1973, “The Exorcist” was released, and is far and away the shining example of an exorcism movie. There hasn’t been anything that even comes close to it. That isn’t for lack of effort on Hollywood’s part, though.

This year has already produced two movies based on possession and exorcism: “Season of the Witch” and its latest offering, “The Rite,” starring Anthony Hopkins. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t bother going to see either of these movies because I find it hard to believe anything will ever match up with the 1973 mainstay. But with the man who played Hannibal in a movie about demonic possession, I found “The Rite” difficult to resist.

This movie was inspired by (and very loosely based upon) a book by Matt Baglio of the same name. The title, “The Rite,” refers to the Rite of Exorcism. It begins with the protagonist, Michael Kovak (O’Donoghue), a mortician’s son who helps out with his father’s trade from a young age.

Kovak seems unsure about which direction he wants to go in with his life, but knows that he doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps. “You don’t understand, in our family we become morticians or priests,” he says to a friend, while informing him of his decision to join the seminary.

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O’Donoghue is a relatively unknown actor, having only done some TV work and one film before this one. I’m not sure how much difference this makes to the overall feel of the movie, though, because once Hopkins is introduced, O’Donoghue’s character seems to just follow him around like a lost puppy. Maybe it’s just because I’m a fan of Hopkins, but I think they could’ve cast Will Ferrell for the part and it still would’ve worked, because Hopkins’ performance is that strong.

Kovak is unsure of what to do with his life, so he takes his overseer’s suggestion and transfers to the Vatican to begin a course on exorcism. Seeing his obvious skepticism, Kovak’s professor refers him to a Jesuit Priest, Father Lucas (Hopkins), and tells him that he will find the proof he is looking for if he follows Lucas.

After witnessing his first exorcism, Kovak appears even more confused than he was before. After he says, “That’s it?” Father Lucas responds with a deliberate shout-out to the 1973 film, “What did you expect? Spinning heads and pea soup?” This is one of only a few brief attempts at comic relief in the movie, all of which are delivered by Father Lucas. I was glad the wisecracks were kept to a minimum, because it would definitely take away from the uneasy, anxious nature of the rest of the movie.

There are definitely parallels between the personalities and beliefs of Kovak and Father Lucas, though they are also different in some ways. Both of them have their doubts about some of the victims they encounter, believing that maybe mental problems really are to blame. Also, both seem to admit occasional weaknesses of their faith (especially Kovak), but Father Lucas clearly believes that God and the devil are very real forces in this world, no matter how much his faith wavers. This is the central theme of the film, and it makes the Pope John Paul II quote at the beginning of the film applicable: “The battle against the devil, which is the principal task of St. Michael the Archangel, is still being fought today, because the devil is still alive and active in the world.”

Due to Hollywood’s usual inability to properly categorize movies, I was surprised to see “The Rite” wasn’t considered horror. Though at times (especially near the end) it has the feel of a modern horror movie, the overall plot is more drama-based because the character development is more complete than that of a horror film. Kovak’s disbelief is so apparent that it almost becomes shared by the viewer.

As one would expect, Anthony Hopkins completely steals the show in this movie. His portrayal of Father Lucas is both emotional and extremely convincing from  beginning to end of the film. There isn’t an actor out there who can match Hopkins’ ability to completely engulf himself into the character he’s playing. As the saying goes, he only gets better with age.

The end was a little abrupt, but that seems to be the model for most exorcism movies. “The Exorcist” was the same way. Overall, it doesn’t top its predecessor – but I don’t think that was the intent. On its own, I would consider “The Rite” a success.

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