U.K. horror feature The Last Rite mixes a few different elements of terror, resulting in an effort that tries to pack too much into one film but boasts some effective spookiness. Bethan Waller’s performance, especially during the second half, is enough to warrant a recommendation.
Waller stars as Lucy, a young woman who begins seeing a shadow person wearing a large-brimmed hat. Her egocentric boyfriend Ben (Johnny Fleming) goes from 3 to 10 on the anger scale every time she mentions odd occurrences in their shared home, even though she has photographic evidence of the entity. Once night terrors and sleep paralysis start kicking in, Lucy turns to the help of Father Roberts (Kit Smith), whose insistence on an immediate exorcism not sanctioned by the church sends the film into possession-horror territory.
Writer/director Leroy Kincaide also shot and produced The Last Rite, and did additional sound design. That’s a lot of hats for one filmmaker to wear at once, especially for a debut feature. The screenplay has issues, such as the photo of the shadow person being dropped quickly rather than used to help prove that Lucy isn’t just seeing things, and a character who confronts Lucy in a women’s restroom is never explained. Occasional pacing and stilted dialogue drawbacks are also evident, including a third act tête-à-tête between Father Roberts and an old friend that stops the mounting suspense rather cold for a few minutes.
Kincaide shows a flair for building mystery and tension, though, and the feeling of dread that begins early on is well maintained. His direction during the third act possession is spot on, keeping things uneasy and creepy.
A possession horror film can only be as good as the actor portraying the demon-inflicted victim, and Waller is absolutely terrific here. During her earlier night terrors scenes, she gives an eerie physical performance, and once things go full-on exorcism time, she gives an all-in turn, with hair-raising facial expressions to match her athletic work. Her portrayal of Lucy from initial loving girlfriend to troubled and haunted person to possession victim is marvelous, and reason enough to seek out this film.
The Last Rite doesn’t offer much new in any of its multiple fear-fare foci, and it does seem to try to cram those elements into one feature at the expense of fleshing out some plot details, but Kincaide obviously had a vision for the film and stayed with it. The Last Rite is an ambitious effort and offers enough chills to keep things entertaining throughout.
The Last Rite, from Samuel Goldwyn Films, will be released On-Demand and Digital November 26th, 2021.(3 / 5)