Blu-ray
A Rental at Best
3 stars
Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
2 Stars
HD Video Quality
4 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4.5 Stars
Supplements
1 Stars
High-Def Extras
1.5 Stars
Bottom Line
A Rental at Best

The Rite

Street Date:
May 17th, 2011
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
May 13th, 2011
Movie Release Year:
2011
Studio:
New Line Cinema
Length:
114 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Is there a reason Hollywood believes claiming a horror movie is "Inspired by true events" will make anyone more likely to be scared? It seems by doing this the filmmakers expect us to cringe in fear, thinking to ourselves that these events did take place in some form or another. Except said events were probably less frightening because no matter how powerful the devil, is he still doesn't have CG effects to help his cause.

Let's just forget that this film claims these events took place, and look at this movie like any other religious horror movie. Which brings me to my next question; what is with Hollywood's macabre vision of the Catholic Church? Nowadays it seems that most movies that come out featuring the Catholic Church either have to do with secret combinations of Masons that have hidden knowledge from the world for millennia, or priests who run around exorcizing demons and evil spirits.

'The Rite' is the latter, as if you didn't already know. Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue) is a young man who's being forced into one of two career paths. Either he can go into the mortuary business like his father (Rutger Hauer) or he can become a Catholic priest. Michael seems pretty strong-willed, but apparently there's no way he can break out of the expectations set by his father, so he decides to become a priest. That is until he realizes that he doesn't really want to be a priest and tenders his resignation. Not so fast though, one of his superiors has an offer for him. Go to Rome and study with a newly formed class used to teach young priests how to become exorcists! Since Michael apparently doesn't have the ability to think for himself, he reluctantly agrees.

Michael is a doubter. His faith is always in question, but he plays along with the other priests. He soon meets Father Lucas Trevant (Anthony Hopkins) who knows more about exorcisms than any other priest in the world. The man sure does know his demons, and he gets results. Michael assumes that everyone Father Lucas sees is just in need of good psychological counseling instead of having holy water sprayed at them while a priest chants prayers.

Anthony Hopkins recently gave an interview while promoting 'Thor' where he basically admitted that over the past few years he'd been phoning in his performances. It's sad that even though Hopkins is noticeably phoning in this performance, he's the best actor in the film.

As for O'Donoghue, he seems to has no other look in his acting repertoire other than a constipated/concerned expression (concerned by constipation?). A pregnant girl writhes on the floor, speaking in tongues and spitting up nails and all he can manage is a furrowed brow.

Simply put, 'The Rite' is a by-the-numbers religious horror film. It's easy to see what's coming, and it never ends up being all that scary. When a movie pulls the old cat leaping out of the darkness routine, you know you're in for a long, tame horror movie experience.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'The Rite' was released theatrically at the beginning of 2011, so you'd expect nothing less that near perfection for a day-and-date release like this. For the most part that's true. The 1080p image is helped along by an AVC encode.

The movie is steeped in dark, foreboding images and surroundings. Blacks are bleak and bottomless. Shadows offer crisp delineation in darker scenes, which helps reveal even the finest details. Close ups harbor a wonderful amount a clear facial details. Every crag on Hopkins face cuts through the image with crisp defined lines and shadows. A fine filmic sheen of grain covers the picture giving it a more real, gritty feeling. Daytime scenes are also fantastic to look at. The detail captured in the Roman buildings and the Vatican are top-notch. Intricate brickwork doesn't ever reveal a hint of aliasing. Other anomalies like banding and ringing aren't anywhere to be seen.

The movie does have a few pretty corny CG scenes, but overall this is a great looking transfer for a brand new release.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio mix is enough to wake the dead and call up the demons from the depths of hell (aka, your downstairs neighbor). It's an enthralling audio presentation to put it bluntly.

Dialogue is clearly intelligible, but when the groaning from the demons rumbling deep inside the people they're inhabiting starts to waft out that's when things get interesting. Groans, screams, and what sound like cracking vertebrae fill out the soundfield echoing in the rear channels creating an eerie listening environment. Directionality smoothly transitions ghostly voices as they travel unseen around rooms and down corridors. As each scene grows in suspense the rumbling of the sub woofer puts out copious amounts of low-end thumping.

If you're looking for a rousing audio presentation for a horror movie, you've found it here. If you don't want to deal with that neighbor on the floor below you, keep an eye on the volume.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 13 min.) — There's a collection of deleted scenes here, but it's easy to tell why they were cut. Also, they're a bit hard to watch as even though they're in HD they're mired with various technical anomalies.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

  • Chilling Alternate Ending (HD, 2 min.) — Since this is apparently a big selling point, telling by the giant sticker on the slipcover that states "Includes Chilling Alternate Ending", I won't spoil it for you. Just be warned that it may not be as exciting as chilling as they're making it out to be. If you live in a warm climate, you'll still want to prep the AC this weekend.
  • The Rite: Solider of God (HD, 7 min.) — Father Gary Thomas is interviewed here about what real life exorcists do, how they're trained, and what the job entails.

Final Thoughts

Even when Sir Anthony Hopkins is phoning in his role, he's still able to create an interesting character. Too bad everyone else in this movie is as dull and lifeless as the film's tepid script that wants so badly to be scary. There aren't too many chilling moments included in 'The Rite' so hardcore horror fans may find this one just as boring as I did. Still, if you pick it up you'll be happy that the movie comes with excellent audio and video presentations. I suggest you rent it first before deciding on a purchase.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo Pack

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.40:1

Audio Formats

  • English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Supplements

  • Additional scenes

Exclusive HD Content

  • Alternate ending
  • The Rite: Soldier of God – meet Father Gary Thomas, the Vatican-ordained exorcist whose life story inspired the film

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.