Zach Galifianakis, Anthony Hopkins and the Rise of Exorcism

There’s strange, and then there’s really strange. And then there’s sort of strange, which is in itself a completely different genre. I don’t know into which category this piece of news falls, but I know that it’s a little off the beaten path. Shock Till You Drop is reporting that Zach Galifianakis — whose bare ass starred in The Hangover — has signed on to star in a film called Miracle Workers, which is currently being developed by Michael Aguiler, producer of The Crazies (in theaters tomorrow).

The film is described as “a buddy supernatural comedy in which the actor is put on a path that has him posing as an exorcist with a pal. The two think they’ve got a good thing going until they’re faced with a real menace.”

See? Strange. It calls into question the return of movies about exorcism. It’s a genre hit a high point in the 1970s and 80s with films like The Exorcist, The Omen and The Awakening, among others. In recent years, a comeback was staged with the likes of Constantine, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Unborn, but it hasn’t exactly brought back the thunder of the 70s. Now we have two projects — the one described above, a comedy. And the one I will describe to you now, which is not a comedy.

Heat Vision reported this morning that Anthony Hopkins has joined the Mikael Hafstrom directed film The Rite, based on a book by Matt Baglio. The premise of the book is described below:

Father Gary Thomas was working as a parish priest in California when he was asked by his bishop to travel to Rome for training in the rite of exorcism. Though initially surprised, and slightly reluctant, he accepted this call, and enrolled in a new exorcism course at a Vatican-affiliated university, which taught him, among other things, how to distinguish between a genuine possession and mental illness. Eventually he would go on to participate in more than eighty exorcisms as an apprentice to a veteran Italian exorcist. His experiences profoundly changed the way he viewed the spiritual world, and as he moved from rational skeptic to practicing exorcist he came to understand the battle between good and evil in a whole new light.

Hopkins will play the veteran priest whose method for exorcisms are a little “outside the box.”

As you see, two pretty high-profile movies about exorcism. One is high profile because Zach Galifianakis is a relatively hot comic property at the moment, and will draw based on his work in The Hangover. That project could add a director and second star and be in very good shape. The second project includes Anthony Hopkins in a role that is creepy. I see no reason why we shouldn’t be interested, based on that information. The question that remains is this: are these projects the sign of a rebirth in thrillers of a spiritual nature (building on the low-lying success of the TV show Supernatural, which is quite good), or are they just two more movies that are not indicative of a trend? Time will tell, friends. Time will tell.

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet. As of yet, no one has stopped him.

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