The thing about demonic possession films is that I’m a religious person. As a Christian, I believe in God, the devil, and demons. So, movies that contain that subject matter hit closer to home to me when compared to movies with ghosts, werewolves, and vampires. Movies with possession will either be bad or good based on the effects used and the tactics the exorcists/demons use. Take for instance, The Exorcist (1973). When you think of possession films, you think of this movie. It’s almost 50 years old and it still holds up as the best demonic possession film ever made (arguably). However, when you look at The Possession of Hannah Grace (2018) it pales in comparison. Despite all the cgi and everything else, you sometimes just can’t beat the practical effects. I think it also helps that The Exorcist was such a simple script that it did its thing without having too many side plots or characters that added to the confusion.
Anyway, for Day 9 of 31 Days of Horror, I’ve decided to watch a possession film that was released just last year, called The Last Rite. Starring Bethan Waller as Lucy and Johnny Fleming as Ben, this film is about a medical student (Lucy) that suffers from sleep paralysis. She finds herself plagued by a demonic entity after she moves in with her boyfriend (Ben).
It sounds like a simple enough plot. It doesn’t have that many actors in it so it might be heading the same way as The Exorcist. We’ll find out.
Most of these films that I’m watching for 31 Days of Horror, I’m writing my review as I watch the film so it’s going to have a lot of spoilers in it. Having said that, I do try not to spoil the ending (too much). So, if you don’t like this type of article, then I’m sorry.
You’ve been warned… here there be spoilers!
Things start off okay with Ben and Lucy. The actors have a good chemistry as they snipe at each other. Late one night, Lucy is by herself, and she hears a strange sound, she goes to investigate. Instead of turning on all the lights in the house, she goes around just looking around in the dark. This only leads to the first jump scare in the film. She picks up a broken piece of glass and sees a strange dude in a hat that’s shrouded in shadow. Should’ve turned on the lights, Lucy. Of course, the figure isn’t there when she turns around. Ben, of course, thinks she’s seeing things when he gets home a few moments later.
The typical signs of possession start to manifest. Birds killing themselves on the windows, weird sounds, seeing shadowy people in the mirrors, all the kitchen cupboards opening. That type of stuff.
Oh, they’re going all out because Lucy starts talking in her sleep at 3:02 a.m. which is traditionally the hour when demons are most active. She wakes up and goes downstairs to get a glass of water. She sees the dude in the hat outside.
Luke is adamant that she’s lying. He’s actually at the point where he’s being abusive toward her. The next day, Lucy goes to see a doctor. The doctor advises her to cut down on stress.
Lucy isn’t a religious person, which is another one of those common things you see in possession films. The person getting possessed doesn’t have a relationship with God.
Lucy and her friend conveniently find an outside source that has had contact with the hat wearing ghost. Lucy visits the guy who turns out to be a doctor that wrote a book about sleep paralysis and the man in the hat. The guy says that the dude in the hat is attracted to stress. That’s another standard trait of possessions. Someone with a weakened soul is more open to possession.
The guy tells her that she’s been chosen by the dude in the hat. The guy advises Lucy to start praying.
Lucy unpacks some of her relative’s religious stuff and hangs up the crosses and sets up the statue of Jesus. However, that stuff doesn’t help because that night at about the same time, she hears her grandmother’s voice calling her awake. She follows the vision of her grandmother out to the backyard in a very creepy scene.
It’s inevitable that Lucy becomes fully possessed by the hat dude. The third act begins with a priest being called in. The movie takes a page directly from The Exorcist with the priest arriving with his bag and stopping at the front of the home while the upstairs window glows.
The father tries to get a blessing to conduct an exorcism on Lucy. The father gets denied, but then decides to go rogue and seek other help.
One of the highlights is Lucy when she’s full-on possessed. She’s extremely creepy.
There’s a distinct difference between this film and The Exorcist. They don’t really give the priest a compelling backstory to make us feel empathetic toward the priest.
Overall, I enjoyed the film. I liked how it kept to the lore of how a possession would work. Having said that, it is pretty generic. It leans heavily on all the possession traits and customs. The final battle with the demon is a bit rushed and lackluster in terms of spiritual warfare. If they had made the priest one of the main characters along with Ben and Lucy, it would’ve been better. However, if they had done that, then we might just skip this film and watch The Exorcist.
What really sets The Last Rite apart from other movies in the possession genre is that it doesn’t go crazy with the powers of the demon. I like the simplicity of it.
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