Blu-ray Review: The Rite

The Rite
Blu-ray | DVD | On Demand
Directed by Mikael Hafstrom
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Colin O’Donoghue, Alice Braga
Release Date: May 17, 2011

The ability to actually frighten has been celebrated in very few films over the last decade. There has been a succession of horror films that induce nausea and sickness rather than soul-tormenting images that plague the brain long after the nightmarish vision has vanished from the screen. To come in contact with true horror one needs to dismiss all films in the Saw franchise, along with films such as Hostel and Turistas. These types of movies construct their entire existence around disgusting images of decapitations, the tearing of human limbs, and the devouring of human body parts. All of this is perverse, lacking any ingenuity that is necessary when trying to craft a potent and adequately effective horror film. Horror films with a singular reliance on gore wind up producing nothing of substance or distinction. They just exist — and maybe they are content with that existence — as being a film with a perverse fascination with violence.

Some films, thankfully, are indifferent to that overwhelming violence. Films that truly attempt to frighten turn to the mysterious, the unknown, the supernatural and eventually the demonic. Engaging with the supernatural or the demonic has its affective ramifications because there are countless ways to provoke fear. The horror films that adhere to gory violence tend to exhaust all possible situations and ideas. And audiences of such films can only tolerate so much. There comes a point where we become numb to yet another film in the Saw franchise. But the horror film about the demonic has many routes it can travel. It can serve as a film trying to tackle religious conundrums; a film exquisitely analyzing the psychological issues that can incite the demonic; or even a film that makes an intimate acquaintance with the demonic force. The Rite is the latest foray into the territory occupied by the demonic, but it’s a botched attempt — it doesn’t see the many ways it can travel, clinching to simplicity and convention while ignoring the horrifically potent elements a film about exorcisms can possess. [Check out my full review of the film from its theatrical release.]

HI-DEF Picture: The Rite arrives on Blu-ray in style. But it is a style not in the vain of flamboyancy or elegance. The high-def images seen on this Blu-ray lend to the actual film a new dimension. It creates an ominous and foreboding mood, powerfully realized via the scenes of impactful storms and impenetrably dark locations. Some Blu-rays this steeped in the color black tend to be blotchy, distorted, and grainy, significantly contrasting, for the worst, when scenes of daylight occur. But the reliance on dark atmosphere works in The Rite‘s favor, creating another dimension in the film that is already impaired due to a crippled narrative. Seeing the crisp images of night, which smoothly leads to even more clear images of the Roman architecture during daylight, we should applaud this transfer for successfully getting right the battle between dark and light — something the film doesn’t make quite clear.

Special Features

Chilling Alternate Ending- 2mins (HD): A surprise ending not worth spoiling.

Deleted Scenes- 13mins (HD): Some scenes are worth watching, especially those that have blatant technical mishaps.

The Rite: Soldier of God- 7mins (HD): A fascinating short feature that permits us to take a closer glance at the actual exorcism academy. It stars who The Rite is based on, Father Gary Thomas, a Vatican-ordained exorcist. Other priests elaborate on their experience with the demonic as well as Matt Baglio, the author of a book (The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist) that the film was based on. This is a fascinating feature that should be a bit longer.

Movie: *1/2 out of *****
HI-DEF: **** out of *****
Special Features: **1/2 out of *****

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