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The Exorcism of Emily Rose(2005)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Scott Derrickson

Jennifer Carpenter/Emily Rose
Laura Linney/Erin
Tom Wilkinson/Father Moore
Campbell Scott/Thomas
6 10
A priest (Wilkinson) is put on trial for the death of Emily Rose (Carpenter), a young chica on whom he conducted an exorcism. The defense (Linney) and the prosecutor (Scott) act as “religion” versus “science” as we discover via flashbacks what happened to the poor girl.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a courtroom drama first, a debate on religion/science second and a horror flick third. Shame on the marketing campaign that’s advertising it’s as a straight up horror effort! SHAME ON THEM! So keep that in mind before walking on this one’s altar and you might get a couple of potent crucifix hits out of it.

This bitter ditty is based on the very sad true story of Anneliese Michel who went through the excruciating ordeal in the late 60’s, mid 70’s and died, starved to death. Now, you can often gauge the quality of a film by measuring the amount of time you spend yakking about it afterwards. This one had me and my two friends blabbing it up like Tupperware wives over beers afterwards and it made for a good conversation. Nothing like a little bit of religion to heat up a back and forth! Yes, the movie did something right! Where the Exorcism of Emily Rose hit the ball out of the park was in its proper tackling of a compelling subject matter, one that was insightfully dissected within a courtroom setting. The tight back and forth between the two lawyers and the weighty arguments presented made for an engaging listen; I was into it! It surely helped matters that the acting on display was top notch! Laura Linney was her usual charming and convincing self while Campbell Scott was a freaking hoot as the hard nose prosecutor.

The bloody cherry on top of this Sunday Mass ice cream cone was without a doubt the poignant, randomly suspenseful, at times arrestingly stylish and often shocking flashbacks having to do with Emily Rose’s possession (Or was she epileptic/psychotic?). The bits gave me the uber willies me in places and I appreciated that they took (deliberately?) a somewhat different route than what Friedkin did on The Exorcist (It was more grounded here). Furthermore, Jennifer Carpenter was simply amazing as Emily Rose! Talk about a formidable performance! She so sold the role and the possession angle while displaying an endearing vulnerability that made me love her. I wanted to hold her, cry with her, buy her a soda pop and slap the devil out of her! With a lesser actress in the role, the flick might have not worked…like AT ALL!

With that said I did have some holy water to splash in this one’s face to cleanse it of its faults. First off the courtroom scenes felt too much like a TV Movie (or LA Law) in terms of visual style. I know that was the point: present day = straight forward shooting while flashbacks = a more kinetic approach, but in my opinion the court sequences looked TOO flat for a theatrical feature film. I needed more than wide shot - medium shot — close up to get fully stimulated. In addition, the dialogue at hand had a tendency to take the “corn” highway. To my dismay; they kept in the line “The game is on” from the priest. That line made me laugh so hard when I heard it on the film’s set (read my set report here) and it got the same reaction from me and the audience as it played onscreen. The room broke down in giggles!

Then there was the characters not being taken far enough within what was established. I would have loved to know Emily Rose more as a person before the fact, would’ve dug the capitalization on any level that Thomas was a religious person (he states it and they do nothing with it), never got to know “why” the priest loved Emily so much and didn’t fully buy Erin's individual progression as the film moved forward. Lastly; and this has to do with my own individual beliefs; the holy rationale on display lost me in places where I found it contrived and somewhat silly hence taking me out of the film a tad; but that’s just my perception. We all believe in what we want to believe; to each his own Tacos! It should be said that I’m more of a spiritual person than a religious one (even though I’m Catholic)...so there you have it...

On the whole The Exorcism of Emily Rose was a flawed yet gripping enough little movie that gave me ample meat in the courtroom and enough horror juice in the flashbacks to make it worth my while. Will the power of Christ compel you to see this film?

Although the film sported some disturbing imagery and minor blood, gore was not the main dish here. Not about that…unless you count Campbell Scott’s moustache as gore… (I did!)
Jennifer Carpenter (Emily Rose) was a revelation here where she displayed vulnerability and stellar physical acting that made the part happen. Great bit of casting and BANG ON JOB! Laura Linney (Erin) has played this role before (Primal Fear anyone?) and she excelled at it again here. What a lovely and talented actress! Love her! Tom Wilkinson (Father Moore) was capable throughout and was only dragged down when he had to utter some cheesy dialogue. Campbell Scott (Thomas) was a delight in his asshole you love to love because he’s such a good asshole role! He had me in stitches…I was almost rooting for him!
T & A
We get zilch but Emily sure looked cute when possessed! I had ex girlfriend flashbacks over here!
Scott Derrickson played up the style, the sound design (loved that odd noise Emily made when possessed) and the use of color (dug that orange-ish wall stuff) during the flashbacks and kept it simple (too simple if you ask me) with his courtroom scenes. I dug the approach on paper and it worked for most of the film.
The score by Arrow Fav Christopher Young was chilling and highly effective. ANOTHER HIT BRO!
The Exorcism of Emily Rose cranked by grey matter via its gripping subject matter, its wonderful performances and its sucker punching exorcism flashbacks. Sure I would’ve appreciated more fleshed out characterizations, a light polish on some of the dialogue and a more inspiring visual approach when it came to the courtroom stuff but at the end of the burial, I still had a groovy time at the out-house!

My two cents on the whole thing for those who care: Even though the flick obviously leaned a tad more towards the supernatural explanation than the medical one; when all was said and done, I personally believed that Emily was brain washed (made to believe she was possessed by the priest) and murdered (out of negligence, blinded by religious beliefs). Should’ve forced fed the gal! Slap a Big Mac down her throat…DO SOMETHING! She would’ve lived longer. Now go see the movie and make up your own mind as to “what” happened to Emily Rose!

The real Emily Rose (Anneliese Michel) was diagnosed with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy and the forensic evidence that surfaced after her autopsy revealed that she died of starvation.

Unlike the film, Anneliese's parents (who were not charged in the film) and the two exorcists (in the film there was just one) were found guilty of negligent homicide and were sentenced to 6 months in jail (slap on the wrist) with probation.

Director Scott Derickson also directed the gnarly Hellraiser Inferno.