Review: 'The Last Rite' Succeeds Until It Doesn't

by Kevin Taft

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday November 26, 2021

'The Last Rite'
'The Last Rite'  (Source:Samuel Goldwyn Films)

With possession movies infesting our screens, it's nice to see a film that tries to at least do something different... until it doesn't. Writer/director Leroy Kincaide's first feature film "The Last Rite" succeeds at first. He skillfully establishes a foreboding, quiet, contemplative mood that we haven't seen in possession movies since maybe "The Exorcist," and gives us the expectation that when the sh*t hits the fan, it's going to be shocking.

His story centers on Lucy (Bethan Waller) and her husband Ben (Johnny Fleming), who have just moved in together. The couple seem happy, but when Lucy starts seeing a presence (that becomes known as The Man in the Hat) and begins to feel out of sorts, things go awry.

Ben is sweet and loving one minute, and a raging asshole the next. This has nothing to do with the presence in their home, and, quite frankly, his chaotic behavior is never explained. It's also not very well acted by Fleming, so it's confusing. I'm not sure if he was directed to act so differently in every scene, or it was his choice.

Regardless, poor Lucy isn't feeling so good, mentally or physically. When she starts to hear that others have seen the Man in the Hat and is told, "Don't let him in!," she takes the advice seriously, even though she is sort of turned away by friends and strangers alike.

All of this is handled fairly well, with the characters taking the focus and few unnerving sequences. While there isn't much flair to the direction, it has a sparse quality that fits the uneasy mood.

But once Lucy decides to give religion a try and visits Father Roberts (Kit Smith) for help, things start to go in a more familiar direction. Not to mention, we start to focus on things we don't need or want to care about.

Father Roberts has to ask the church to do an exorcism. He is refused. (Long discussion.) He goes to see someone in authority who can help him (Ian Macnaughton) but he, in turn, doesn't want to have anything to do with possessions, having had a bad experience in the past. All of this goes on way too long, and adds little to no dramatic tension. We just want to see what's happening to Lucy.

As expected, Lucy is a pallid, demonic, giggly mess. Her eyes are sunken, she quotes familiar passages from the Bible, and eventually gets into the whole "we are many," "we are Legion" nonsense we've seen a hundred times before. She screams a lot, is tied to a bed, etc. etc. There is just nothing interesting or original to the film, which was foreshadowed by the generic title it was given.

Waller is quite good and makes us care, and the tone of the film is great at first, giving the film a more elegant feel. But ultimately, it devolves into the same ole' same ole' that horror fans have been witness to time and again, which is a shame.

Let's hope the clichés of "The Last Rite" are truly the last we see of them.

"The Last Rite" will be released On Demand and on Digital November 26th.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.