“Papa is half inspired by Freddie Mercury and half from Jacques Clouseau”: Ghost’s ‘Rite Here Rite Now’

“Papa is half inspired by Freddie Mercury and half from Jacques Clouseau”: Ghost’s ‘Rite Here Rite Now’

By Katherine Allvey

Jun 21, 2024 17:35

Swedish Anti-Christ superstars Ghost have always existed in the liminal space between fiction and reality, combining stadium rock, metal, eighties energy and an entire costumed backstory, so it seems only fitting that they’d release a movie that walked the line between real and unreal. The plan was to pick up their threads from their webisodes, tie them together with footage shot over three concerts in Los Angeles last year, hype up the cultish Ghost fanbase with increasingly formal social media announcements and trailers shown simultaneously across all four stages at Download Festival and then, with a bang, ‘Rite Here Rite Now’ would be sent out worldwide as a limited theatrical release. It seems as if the only thing that Tobias Forge, the Ghost mastermind, vocalist and noted papal impersonator, was missing from his scheme for cinematic domination was someone to tell him when to stop.

If you’re one of the many Ghost fans with tattoos of Papa, or equivalent badges of devotion, you will love this movie, and much of the over two hour epic is very enjoyable. The concert film aspect of ‘Rite Here Rite Now’ is intricate and immersive, with thirteen cameras contributing some four thousand cuts to a very, very detailed retelling of a Ghost live show. Spectacle is the name of the game, and between the busty skeletons in body paint and gold leaf falling like the final round of ‘The Crystal Maze’, the theatrics of one of band’s sets is captured to a tee. There’s nothing to complain about musically either, with the maximalist live sound that entranced audiences at last year’s Download coming across perfectly. If Forge had left his film as simply a retelling of a Ghost concert, it would have been brilliant.

The letdown comes with, well, everything else. You need to be very invested in the Ghost lore to care about the story, or even follow it fully. Ghost are always led by one of Forge’s characters, Papa Emeritus I-IV to date, and ‘Rite Here Rite Now’ focuses on ‘Cardi’ AKA Cardinal Coppia, Forge’s alter ego from 2016-2018, who has since ascended to become Papa Emeritus IV. Cardi is concerned about his own mortality since characters get replaced every couple of years, and both his mother and the ghost of his father (also played by Forge) attempt to help him to come to terms with his impending demise. Cardi, it’s worth noting, just comes across as mean-spirited and petulant, ignoring his parents’ wisdom and treating both the rest of Ghost and the audience in LA with disdain. It seems that Forge was going for an ‘all the world’s a stage’ moment, using the metaphor of performance to discuss life and death. Yes, Cardi does ‘die’ when each show ends, because he’s made of prosthetics and bejewelled robes attached to a real person, and is ‘reborn’ on the next night. Do we even care though? Cardi isn’t either overly likeable or fun to loathe.

As Forge revealed at the Q+A session at the movie’s premiere, ‘Papa is half inspired by Freddie Mercury and half from Jacques Clouseau’, and the infamous Inspector from the Pink Panther series seems to be taking priority in the frontman’s performance in ‘Rite Here Rite Now’. There is a lot of attempts at humour in this movie, from puns and homages to Rocky all the way through to fart jokes and a long, animated cartoon sequence that perplexingly replaces footage of one of Ghost’s biggest hits. Benny Hill was apparently an influence on Forge too, according to the Q+A, which is clearest in the animated, Scooby Doo style portion. But again, some of the ‘funny’ segments come across as spiteful rather than portraying a shared amusement. In a semi-scripted scene, (Forge says that ‘the show is not scripted, but it is very well rehearsed’) Cardi has a hole in his shoe and calls his long-suffering wardrobe assistant onstage to change his boots for him. The comic scripted aspect, namely that she was napping offstage beforehand, was added afterwards. Cardi, or Forge, really did demand his assistant come onstage, bend her knee and change his shoes in front of thousands. That easily could be funny if he was playing an Anchorman-style overblown ego, but we’re just left feeling a little sorry for her.

The Ghost fanbase are a smart bunch, and rumours have been floating for a while that there would be an important piece of information revealed in ‘Rite Here Rite Now’. Much like the rest of the movie, when the sought-after revelation comes, it’s only going to be satisfying for the hardcore members of the Ghost congregation and will doubtless spark countless online debates and discussions. Then again, this film seems to be solely aimed at pre-existing Ghost fans, who will love every moment and every confusingly positioned pun. New followers are unlikely to discover a previously uncharted love of the band based on ‘Rite Here Rite Now’, which is a shame as the songs are captured in a way that lovingly evokes the opulence and energy of a live show. 

Tobias Forge is preaching to the choir with ‘Rite Here Rite Now; and they’ll be singing his praises as a musical and cinematic visionary. Are you going to sell your soul to Papa Emeritus too?

Kate Allvey

‘Rite Here Rite Now’ is released in cinemas 20th and 22nd June 2024