The Last Rite (2021) Does Everything Every Last Exorcist Film Does But Worse
Title: The Last Rite
First Non-Festival Release: November 26, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Leroy Kincaide
Writer: Leroy Kincaide
Runtime: 107 Minutes
Starring: Bethan Walker, Johnny Fleming, Kit Smith
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Medical student Lucy (Bethan Waller) believes she is being stalked by a paranormal presence inside her boyfriend Ben’s (Johnny Fleming) home. She confides in Ben about all the ominous things happening to her and what her research has produced. Exhausted from work and not one to believe in that sort of nonsense, he brushes it off. Things escalate for Lucy as she slowly uncovers the origin of the entity, and it takes hold. Now possessed, Lucy must fight off the parasitic demon and pray that Father Roberts (Kit Smith) is able to expel it from her body before it’s too late.
A slog of a film to endure, The Last Rite is a journey into the most worn out and tired conventions in the exorcism sub-genre.
Nothing about this film works, but most of its issues stem from its weak story. It might be a recent phenomenon, but sleep paralysis demonic fare is nothing new and The Last Rite fails to justify its attempt on entering the field. Sleep paralysis is supposed to be the center of this film, or the center to this demon’s presence. Halfway through the feature, it seems to forget this and plunge into more familiar territory with just a plain old exorcism. Riddled with cliches and silly dialogue, it fails not only on originality and ingenuity but also on technical merit.
There are so many needless and stretched out scenes in this film that are painful to watch. The biggest offenders are any scene with Father Kit trying to convince the church about Lucy’s case. I’m sure they are meant to add an element of tension or suspense, but it’s not giving anything viewers they don’t already know about the exorcism process, and it does the exact opposite of what it intends. It drags like no other and the pacing gets punishing by the time the film limps to its final act.
It’s shameful that a film this long can’t do anything to make its characters unique or interesting. They are cardboard cutouts with little personality that serve only to move the plot along by any means necessary. Johnny Fleming’s shouts and off-kilter behavior feels more like an actor trying to portray a dick boyfriend rather than a person who is one. It’s inauthentic and jarring for most of the feature. Meanwhile, Bethan Waller attempts to make Lucy an interesting character. Nothing feels natural in her performance. From her pained looks of fear to her hyperventilating demonic laughs it screams inauthentic. Truthfully, the writing is more to blame when her dialogue is so poorly conceived.
It’s dreadful all around and I am honestly struggling to find any areas where The Last Rite shines. There are a few disorienting shots here and there that add to the tension but otherwise it’s flat and boring. It also does a great job at maintaining an uncompromisingly serious tone which makes it consistent in its narrative. I like the idea that a sleep paralysis demon could cause terror in one’s life if invited in, however, choosing to go the route of a typical exorcism movie really dilutes the potential of the story. The promise of the premise of this film was great, which is what led me to renting it instead of waiting for it to pop up on a free streaming service.
There’s not much to commend in the production behind The Last Rite. Every measure is taken to create the most generic and unsuccessful demonic horror film possible. From overwrought sequences to over-the-top acting to just overdone cliches and conventions, this film fails to achieve any modicum of tension required to suspend disbelief in the paranormal. Offering nothing new and failing to evoke any sort of emotion beyond boredom, this British export is one I highly recommend you avoid. There’s nothing more soul-sucking than a demon, except maybe paying full price for this generic horror film.
Overall Score? 3.5/10