We haven’t had a good old-fashioned exorcism for a while, so Leroy Kincaide’s British take on the familiar genre, released via Samuel Goldwyn in the US, seemed worth a shot; the trailer features most of the staples, and several elements seem to be lifted directly from 1973’s The Exorcist. It’s a crisply shot film to be sure, but there’s some obvious issues; the Britishness of the film is actually quite anonymous, and that lack of a discernible local slant proves a problem. It also claims to be based on true events; if so, that would suggest that today’s pressed-for-ideas demons are currently basing their possession strategies on popular horror movies.
Lucy (Bethan Waller) is a medical student working on her dissertation in a large house owned by her partner Ben (Johnny Fleming). She’s got a tortured backstory, not fully explained here, which leads her to night terrors and sleep paralysis; not surprisingly, a passing demon seeks to take advantage of her weakness, and Lucy finds herself possessed. Father Roberts (Kit Smith), a clergyman gets involved, but with the church unwilling to commit to a firm time-scale for resolving the issues, he’ll have to go it alone if Lucy is to be freed from her on-going ordeal…
The Last Rite raises to at least one good Emily Rose-type opening scare, when Lucy spots the distorted figure of her deceased nan amongst the washing lines in her back garden. But there’s too much slack in the pacing for the audience to guess what’s coming next, and the emphasis on the lack of interest from the church authorities proves to be something of a lugubrious dead end. Lucy is haunted by a man-with-a-hat figure that looks very much like The Babadook, or possibly Jamiroquai, but somehow there’s not enough focus on where the apparition comes from, or the backstory which created him.
The Last Rite just about passes muster for genre addicts; it doesn’t put many feet wrong, and the production has a nice cold, icy feel. Kincaide does go further than most to capture the psychology of Lucy’s angst, and while the budget is clearly low, there’s enough evidence here to suggest he’s a talent to watch. Many films like this go over the top early doors, but The Last Rite is a respectable entry in an increasingly disreputable genre.
Thanks to Samuel Goldwyn Films for access.
The Last Rite is out now on US streaming platforms.