REVIEW: The Last Rite (2021)

dir. Leroy Kincaide

Medical student Lucy (Bethan Waller) is having a rough time: stressed out by her dissertation and borderline abusive boyfriend, she begins to suffer from sleep paralysis and is soon haunted by a shadowy figure that starts to pursue her in her waking life. After struggling to keep the unknown presence at bay it becomes the responsibility of a local priest to perform the rites of exorcism and rid Lucy of her demons.

Playing it straight, The Last Rite is very much a paint-by-numbers possession movie, though it does attempt to depict Lucy’s experiences through the alternative lens of a sleep paralysis demon. It doesn’t break any new ground, but as Lucy succumbs Waller does commendable performance work.

Unfortunately the film suffers from glimpses of good ideas that fail to develop. The sleep paralysis aspect is not really explored and appears more of an afterthought, as does the appearance and lore of the demon. Similarly Lucy appears to be in an abusive relationship – with her partner Ben (Johnny Fleming) being aggressive and causing the majority of her stress – yet this conflict is never fully resolved, leaving the film feeling unfinished.

Tackling a horror subgenre with such a rich back-catalogue – including classics like The Exorcist (1973) – must be a daunting task for any filmmaker, but whilst The Last Rite hints at interesting takes on done-to-death tropes it never reaches its potential. Lacking a natural flow to dialogue or a clear raison d’etre, it sadly falls short of being a worthy entry into the demonic horror subgenre. 

Ygraine Hackett-Cantabrana


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