Head spinning and vomiting pea soup are just a couple of the Hollywood-hyped myths about exorcism that a new docudrama seeks to dispel, says producer and ASU alumnus Nick Exposito.
The film, titled The Rite of Exorcism: Myths, Mystery, and Hope, opens its theatrical run today at Harkins Shea 14. And while it takes a studied approach to exorcism, including interviews with Vatican-certified exorcists and dramatic recreations of actual events, you may still want to sleep with the lights on afterward. "I think the topic of exorcism in and of itself is a scary subject," says Exposito. "In fact, I know people who are so freaked out by the subject matter that they don't think they can handle seeing it."
The Rite of Exorcism was produced by Phoenix-based Veritas Pictures, LLC, and shot in Phoenix as well as Rome, Baltimore, Brooklyn, and San Jose. It features interviews with established exorcists like Father Gary Thomas, Father Gabriel Amorth, and Father Jose Fortéa. Thomas, one of 14 Vatican-certified exorcists based in the U.S., is the real-life inspiration for the character Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donaghue) in the feature film The Rite, starring Anthony Hopkins.
Levitation, supernatural strength, and exorcism's growing popularity after the jump.
The Rite was based on the 2009 book The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio, who observed more than 20 exorcisms performed by Fr. Thomas as research for the book. The film follows the skeptical Kovak to a seminar on exorcism in Rome, where he meets working exorcist Father Lucas (Hopkins).
The Rite was in many ways less horror, more spiritual journey, though wrapped in striking cinematography and darkly beautiful settings.
This speaks to what Exposito says is "the biggest myth" that The Rite of Exorcism docudrama tries to dismiss: "the fact that exorcism is a last resort and that people are more so looking for spiritual guidance than anything else." He says audiences will be surprised by the extensive evaluation that must take place before an exorcism is performed - psychological evaluation both of the possibly possessed and the priest, who must also act as "the biggest skeptic in the room."
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But the biggest surprise of all may be just how popular exorcism is: In only the past few years, says Exposito, "the number of exorcisms performed by Catholic priests worldwide has tripled. In fact, the church can't train enough exorcists in order to meet the demand." And while the docudrama still functions most as an academic look at exorcism, you can expect to see "some pretty strange and unexplained phenomena that do occur," says Exposito. Levitation, eyes rolling back into the head, and incredible strength are just a few of those phenomena discussed in the film - and recreated for the audience.
The Rite of Exorcism is showing at Harkins Shea 14 from today through Thursday, Oct. 27, with four screenings every day. Fr. Thomas will be in town for an hour-long Q&A session after the 7:30 p.m. screening on Tuesday, Oct. 25. Fr. Charlie Goraieb, another exorcism authority, will appear for a Q&A with audiences at the 7:30 p.m. screening on Oct. 27. For more information, or to purchase tickets online, click here.