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The Rite (2011 film)


The Rite (2011 film)

The Rite
Teaser poster
Directed by Mikael Håfström
Produced by Beau Flynn
Tripp Vinson
Written by Michael Petroni
Based on The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist 
by Matt Baglio
Starring Anthony Hopkins
Colin O'Donoghue
Alice Braga
Ciarán Hinds
Rutger Hauer
Music by Alex Heffes
Cinematography Ben Davis
Editing by Peter Boyle
Studio TriBeCa Productions
Distributed by Warner Bros.
New Line Cinema
Release date(s)[1]
Running time 113 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $37 million[2]
Box office $96,047,633

The Rite is a 2011 American supernatural thriller film directed by Mikael Håfström and written by Michael Petroni.[3] It is loosely based on Matt Baglio's book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist.[4] which itself is based on real events as witnessed and recounted by then, exorcist-in-training, American Father Gary Thomas and his experiences from being sent to Rome to be trained and work daily with veteran clergy of the practice. [5] The film stars Anthony Hopkins, Colin O'Donoghue, Alice Braga and Rutger Hauer.[6] Shot in Rome, Budapest,[7] and Blue Island, IL it was released on January 28, 2011.


Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue), disillusioned with his past job as a mortician, decides to enter a seminary school and abdicate his vows upon completion thereby getting a free college degree. Four years have passed and Michael is being ordained to the diaconate at the seminary. After ordination he writes a letter of resignation to his superior, Father Matthew, citing a lack of faith. Father Matthew (Toby Jones), apparently wanting to talk to Michael, attempts to catch up to Michael on the street. He trips as he walks over a curb, causing a cyclist to swerve into the path of an oncoming van. The young female cyclist, Sandra (Marija Karan), is critically injured. Seeing Michael's clerical garb, the cyclist asks him for absolution before her last breath. Initially hesitant but unable to refuse, Michael comforts her and performs a blessing ritual thereby absolving her of her sins. Seeing how calmly Michael handled the situation, Father Matthew tells Michael that he is called to be a priest despite his resignation. He also tells Michael that with the rise of demonic possessions every year, the Church needs more exorcists and says that he has the potential to become an exorcist. Father Matthew wants to send him to the Vatican in Rome so that he can attend a class on exorcism, taught by his friend Father Xavier (Ciarán Hinds. Michael reluctantly accepts after being told by Father Matthew that the Church might convert his scholarship into a student loan that would cost $100,000 if his immediate resignation stands. If Michael attends the exorcism class and still desires to resign afterwards then they will discuss matters (hinting that he may be free to leave).

During classes, he meets a young woman, Angelina (Alice Braga), who is also taking the course. He soon learns that she is a reporter who has been asked to cover the course for an article in a newspaper. Father Xavier, realizing Michael is a skeptic and is very tentative in his faith, asks Michael to see a friend of his, Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), who is a renowned Welsh Jesuit exorcist. Michael agrees and meets Father Lucas at his home, where he sees one of the priest's patients: a pregnant sixteen-year-old girl, Rosaria. It is later revealed that she was raped by her father, which led to her possession. However, Michael remains skeptical, even after witnessing several preternatural events, such as the girl coughing up three long nails and fluently speaking English. She pointedly reminds Michael of the last patient he embalmed and of his loathing for his father. He later speaks with Angelina again, who asks him to relay the information that he gets from Father Lucas to her, as she has tried to get an interview with him many times but has been refused. Michael declines. Meanwhile, Rosaria's condition worsens, highlighted by when she tried to drown herself, prompting Father Lucas and Michael to have her taken to a hospital for further care. There, Father Lucas performs another exorcism on the girl while Michael observes. They leave the hospital room together with Michael while Father Lucas stays overnight outside the girl's room. Late that night, she miscarries; the baby dies from cardiac arrest and the mother from blood loss from major hemorrhaging. Disheartened, Father Lucas feels he has failed her. After Michael sees this he decides to confer with Angelina.

After the death of the young woman, Father Lucas begins behaving strangely, exhibiting signs of demonic possession. Michael and Angelina later find him sitting outside his house in the rain. Father Lucas takes them into his house and, knowing himself to be possessed, tells Michael that he needs to find Father Xavier in order to perform the exorcism. Angelina and Michael try desperately to contact and find Father Xavier; however, they learn that he is out of contact for three days. Learning this, Michael decides to perform the exorcism on his own, with Angelina present. After constant rebuking by the demon and a long, drawn out fight, Michael regains his once lost faith and is able to force the demon to reveal its name, which is Baal. He completes the exorcism, and the powerful demon leaves Father Lucas. Successful, Michael leaves Rome, returning to the United States and to his life.

The final scene of the film shows Michael, now Father Michael Kovak, entering a confessional and beginning to hear a girl's confession.



Mikael Håfström began working on the exorcism thriller in February 2010.[13] Håfström began casting in March for the lead roles of Father Lucas and Michael Kovak, deciding on Anthony Hopkins and Colin O'Donoghue.[14] The film was produced by Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) under their Contrafilm Studios company.[13][15]


The film is based on the book The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Rome-based Matt Baglio, which was published in 2009. To research the book, Baglio participated in a seminar[16] on exorcism by the Vatican-sponsored Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum[17][18] where he met Father Gary Thomas, a parish priest from Sacred Heart Church in Saratoga, California, who was tasked by the local bishop in San Jose, California to become an exorcist for the diocese.[19] Initially skeptical and reluctant, Father Gary becomes an "apprentice" to a Rome-based exorcist and his skepticism is soon replaced by the cold reality of evil and the ways it sometimes takes the form of demonic possession.[20][21] The book traces Father Gary's life prior to and subsequent to their acquaintance in 2005 which involved Baglio observing over twenty exorcisms performed by Father Gary. Baglio indicates that the experience in writing the book "was just a very spiritual process and in a lot of ways, it helped me reconnect to the Church and understand the value of faith. This isn’t something that is silly and prayer, it’s very important."[22]

While Baglio was still researching his book, producers Tripp Vinson and Beau Flynn (who had already produced The Exorcism of Emily Rose) learned about Baglio's book proposal and decided to purchase the movie rights. The producers contacted Michael Petroni (who was one of the writers for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) to write the screenplay. Petroni, a practicing Catholic, coordinated the development of his screenplay with Baglio, who was now writing the book at about the same time.[23]

Director Håfström was invited to direct the film "intrigued by the fact that he would be working from facts, not just someone's imagination." While the film is focused on demonic possession and exorcism, Håfström also believes that "this story is about a young man finding himself and finding his way." In preparation for the film, Håfström attended some exorcisms in Rome although never being present in the actual room, he could hear what was taking place.[23][24] Father Gary Thomas served as a consultant on the set of "The Rite"[25][26] and indicated that the exorcisms in the film were "very accurate" with some "expected licenses" taken.[27]


Warner Bros. released the film on January 28, 2011.[1]


The film was generally well received within the Catholic community although questioning its classification as "horror".[28][29][30][31][32] The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops noted: "Though shaky on a few details, director Mikael Håfström's conversion tale resoundingly affirms faith and the value of priestly ministry. Yet the effort to showcase the main character's spiritual journey as an old-fashioned chillfest weakens its ultimate impact."[33]

It received negative reviews from mainstream critics, where it has a 21% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 158 reviews stating that while "Anthony Hopkins is as excellent as ever, but he is no match for The Rite's dawdling pace and lack of chills, as well as Colin O'Donoghue's tentative performance in the leading role."

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 stars and said, "I admire The Rite because while it delivers what I suppose should be called horror, it is atmospheric, its cinematography is eerie and evocative, and the actors enrich it."[34]

See also

Film portal
Horror fiction portal


External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • Box Office Mojo
  • Rotten Tomatoes
  • Metacritic
  • - History vs. Hollywood
  • Matt Baglio
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