It’s once again new release day in the US, and I got my hands on one that completely slipped in under the radar. Rites of Passage is a new movie out today on Blu-ray and DVD from Magnet Releasing. The movie is so under the radar, it seems that the disk is out before the movie premiere this Thursday.
Welcome to U.C. Santa Barbara, one of the wealthiest and biggest party schools on the left coast. Professor Nash (Stephen Dorff) teaches a class on the Chumash Indian tribe who used to live all along the coast of California. His star pupil Nathan (Ryan Donowho) happens to know that his family’s ranch just outside of town was built over a Chumash burial ground, and he wants to hold a ceremony out there to earn some extra credit. Needless to say his depressed brother Benny (Wes Bentley) lives out on the ranch, and he’s taken on a roommate in the equally messed up Delgado (Christian Slater). See Benny has become addicted to making psychedelic tea with Jimsonweed, and he is currently in search of a bride who is supposed to die with him so that they can spend eternity together. Meanwhile, Delgado is a man who’s lost everything. His wife and son were killed by a drunk driver almost two years earlier, and he’s become a crazed drug user himself who talks to an imaginary sock monkey friend. Eventually, our cast of college kids arrive at the family ranch. Here’s where the final piece of the puzzle is inserted, Dani (Kate Maberly) who is a descendant of the Chumash, which makes her the perfect bride for Benny. However, she’s also the young lady responsible for killing Delgado’s family.
Rites of Passage is one of those mixed bag kind of movies. I can’t deny that I was entertained throughout most of the 102 minute run time, which when it comes down to it is the most important thing to me. I grew up on the slasher craze of the 80′s, and the second half of Rites plays to my fanboyism. There’s something about a group of way too rich and pretty college kids getting butchered that can put a smile on my face.
However, there are way too many negatives involved in Rites for me to wholeheartedly recommend it. First off is the fact that everyone in the movie is a total douche bag. After a few minutes with the cast of characters, I wanted to kill them. It was tough to have much sympathy for Dani (spoiler alert…last girl) when she got off with just probation after killing two people while driving four times over the legal limit. There were also way too many sub-plots that felt unnecessary, some of which just disappeared with little to no attention paid to them. The other main issue I couldn’t look past was the random moments of black comedy that were sprinkled throughout the movie didn’t work for me. I have no issues with making a horror-comedy, but you can’t play the movie 98% straight, then have Christian Slater talking to a sock monkey. On a side note, Stephen Dorff is the worst college professor of all time.
When everything was said and done, Rites of Passage felt very middle of the road. While I enjoyed myself while watching it, I didn’t care about any of the characters enough to get emotionally involved. Still worth a look if you enjoy slasher films.