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8 reviews, 50 user ratings

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Exorcism of Emily Rose, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"I like her because she sleeps above the covers-four feet above the covers!"
4 stars

A sweet young girl from a rural farm leaves home for the first time to attend college in the big city only to change in such profound and hideous ways that even her family and close friends barely recognize the innocent that they sent away in the foul monster that returns. No, this is not an adaptation of that horrible Tom Wolfe novel “I Am Charlotte Simmons.” It is “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” a peculiar new film that is a little more ambitious than the shock-heavy trailers suggest. It doesn’t always work and there are many elements that are embarrassing, offensive and downright stupid but every time that you are about to finally give up on it for good, something so right–a performance, a dialogue exchange, a visual flourish–pops up and gets you involved all over again.

Although the ads trumpet the fact that it is “based on a true story,” a little research (which you can conduct for yourself by going to www.moviesonline.ca/movienews_1253 ) uncovers a tale that bears little resemblance to the final film. In a nutshell, the actual case occurred in Europe in the early 1970's to Annaliese Michel, a young girl who was violently afflicted by seizures, fits of depression and terrifying visions that were diagnosed as epilepsy. When they continued even after medical treatment had begun, she and her family became convinced that she was actually possessed by a demon and required an exorcism. Eventually, the ceremony was approved by the church and performed over a length of time by a local priest. It didn’t work and Annaliese died and when authorities saw the girl’s twisted and emaciated body, they charged the parents and the exorcists with causing her death through negligence.<

In the film, the vague outlines of the case remain though the story has been updated to an utterly anonymous contemporary American location. (This is the kind of film where people say they are going “to University” without ever mentioning a specific one.) More intriguingly, co-writer/director Scott Derrickson has chosen to approach this material not as a straightforward horror film but as a courtroom drama in which the testimony in the trial of Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson), the priest who performed the failed exorcism and who has been charged with negligent homicide, inspires flashbacks that try to uncover whether Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter) really did suffer from demonic possession or was simply a poor epileptic who unwisely went off her medicine on the recommendation of her priest and paid the ultimate price–one interesting trick that the film uses is to show certain incidents from two different points-of-view that suggest either approach depending on who is doing the talking.<

Most lawyers would probably do anything to keep someone like Father Moore from actually testifying and Erin Bruner (Laura Linney), the hot-shot agnostic lawyer hired by the archdiocese to defend Moore, feels the same way. However, she is conflicted for a number of reasons. First, the only reason that Moore allowed her to represent her was by promising that he would be allowed to testify–for Moore, the potential verdict is less important than telling the story of what happened to Emily in open court for all to hear. More importantly, a series of mysterious events, usually occurring at 3:00 AM (apparently party time for evil spirits), forces her to consider the possibility that there are dark forces at work. On the other side of the courtroom, the prosecutor (Campbell Scott) that is her competition is both a devoutly religious man outside the courtroom (the chief reason he was selected for the gig) and a shark inside and he finds himself in the odd position of destroying a court case based on the very ideas that he has otherwise devoted his life to.<

Although the commercials and trailers attempt to cram together every single conventional horror image seen in the film in order to push it as a straight fright flick, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” is more concerned with the spiritual and philosophical instead of the technological. This can be understood from the very of the structure of the film, which begins with word that Emily has died and whose big exorcism sequence is both truncated and ends with about 20 minutes of running time left. Instead, the film builds to a climax involving Emily and specific questions about her faith and strength that are far more interesting and thought-provoking than another round of head-spinning and pea-soup spitting. Granted, this will probably make the film a hard sell and will probably outrage horror buffs by not giving them the expected goods in much the same way that John Boorman’s excellent and underrated “Exorcist II: The Heretic,” another film that chose to explore questions of faith and spirituality instead of repeating the stuff that William Friedkin showed in “The Exorcist”) did when it came out in 1977.<

As I said before, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” is a wildly uneven film. One problem is that the character of Emily is such a cipher–she has maybe two lines of dialogue before her transformation begins–that there is no sense of tragedy in what happens to her, regardless of how you think it happened. Potentially intriguing plot elements are introduced and then inexplicably discarded (the Campbell Scott character never gets the payoff scene that the schism between his personal and professional beliefs would seem to suggest) and other scenes are brought down by enormous plot holes. (The film takes great pains to explain that Emily’s roommate was gone during one important scene but fails to explain where she is during an even more significant one later on.) The final scenes are especially enraging because they abandon the dual approach to the exorcism story to give a final depiction of the events that makes it clear that demonic possession was the cause of Emily’s problems. This is followed by a closing argument from Linney’s character that I won’t get into except to say that her words become more monstrous the longer that you think about them. And while I won’t reveal the verdict, I will admit to being annoyed by the way that it has been carefully crafted so that everyone in the audience, regardless of their belief system, can go home happy. (Needless to say, the real case ended on a somewhat less audience-satisfying moment.)

These flaws would be enough to sink most movies but there are enough good elements on display, besides the ones that I have already mentioned, to make “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” worth seeking out by those willing to accept its lesser aspects. Linney, Wilkinson and Scott are all quite good in roles that could have easily become embarrassing cliches in the hands of less skilled performers and while Carpenter doesn’t get much of a chance to act, she does make the most out of what had to be a physically challenging part. Derrickson keeps the courtroom scenes moving along smoothly enough and also shows a keen eye for the more traditional supernatural elements (one extended scene, in which Emily races through a darkened campus that seems to be populated entirely with demons, is a stylistic tour-de-force straight out of Dario Argento’s “Suspiria”). And yes, there are even a few moments that, despite the PG-13 rating, that may well scare the hell out of you.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13052&reviewer=389
originally posted: 09/09/05 00:10:01
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User Comments

3/30/17 IP It's decent 4 stars
10/29/16 morris campbell chilling the exorcist meets Law&order 4 stars
9/19/16 Alison Taylor Thought it was great! Don't get the neg reviews. I'm a screenwriter who studies filmmaking. 5 stars
12/29/13 Monday Morning Loathed it. 2 stars
3/18/12 Kelly Green Shows that they DO still make good horror flims! 5 stars
11/24/08 CTT Courtroom/horror hybrid does neither well enough 3 stars
10/15/08 Jon Rather frightening that something similar to this really happened. Really tests beliefs. 5 stars
4/26/08 Jack Sommersby Pretty adequate stuff that managed to truly frighten me in places. 3 stars
3/10/08 Jayme Isaacs Good Movie 5 stars
11/27/07 mb I left it after 36 min 2 stars
11/19/07 R.W.Welch Reasonably spooky and mostly interesting fictionalization of German possession case. C+ 3 stars
9/20/07 Airra The actress who played as Emily Rose should've been nominated for the Academy Awards. 5 stars
9/16/07 William Goss Carpenter is good, but not good enough in courtroom drama laced w/ fright-based flashbacks. 4 stars
7/11/07 Hello Stranger lagged and dragged moslty. but this is challenging to beliefs.great acting by Carpenter 4 stars
5/01/07 Indian dude What the hell was this? The whole movie was about a damn court case. 1 stars
2/16/07 Vip Ebriega One of the most religous thrillers since 'The Exorcist' and 'The Omen'. 3 stars
1/21/07 David A. It combines horror and courtroom drama, making you question your own beliefs. 4 stars
10/21/06 veronique i don't scare easily but this movie almost made me cry. EXCELLENT!!!! 5 stars
7/24/06 JenDenmark A scary movie that is actually scary!! Great casting as well! 5 stars
6/29/06 MP Bartley A mixture of genres that really shouldn't work...but does to great effect. 4 stars
6/02/06 LC I fell asleep towards the end. 2 stars
4/02/06 Keely TOTALLY AWESOME acting, storyline, sound effects-not just another dumb horror. LOVED IT!!! 5 stars
3/08/06 richard citra good film 4 stars
2/20/06 Indrid Cold The freak-out sequence a la Jacob's Ladder is cool, but otherwise just OK. 3 stars
1/16/06 gabi it was ok 4 stars
12/10/05 ahmed kamal awadallah i really felt it 5 stars
11/29/05 Gogo movie was great for me coz i was interested in law and of Emily Rose story, ppl disagreed 5 stars
11/27/05 Aisha pretty creepy film worth watching 4 stars
11/08/05 Alice Very good acting! One of the better excorsism movies. 4 stars
11/01/05 john bale Using a Court Room as basis for flashbacks this is a frightening essay, well scripted acted 5 stars
10/31/05 M Excorsist' had pea-soup vomit and spinning heads, 'Emily Rose' is a true story! scared?? 5 stars
10/31/05 Damien That Damn Movie was Great 5 stars
10/24/05 DEEDeeDEEe All I can Say is,If You dont wear Dipers now would be a good time, BASED ON TRUE SHIT! WTF 4 stars
10/24/05 Shamus "Would you like some horror with your horror movie, sir?" 2 stars
10/23/05 GiR I almost peed my pants. what great acting, 'cuz it freaked the hell outta me. 4 stars
10/23/05 M. Mediocre would be high praise. One of the most boring movies I have ever seen. 1 stars
10/06/05 Louise McChrystal It was good, scary in a good way, good actors 4 stars
10/06/05 Carolyn Rathburn Eerie, just plain eerie 4 stars
9/29/05 Brad K. Wait for it to come out on video. Waste of $10. 2 stars
9/28/05 Angela J A great movie for thinkers! 4 stars
9/25/05 brittney very deep.. people who are religous.. very deep for them 5 stars
9/21/05 maktabozzahra very 1 stars
9/17/05 keith mccormick xcellent challenge viewers to question what is personal reality 5 stars
9/15/05 jcjs nice 4 stars
9/12/05 Robert In a strange way it is better than what I had expected. Certainly worth the viewing. 4 stars
9/12/05 David McDaniel boring and long 2 stars
9/12/05 Raul Trevino This movie scared the hell out of me! Driving home 45 miles in the dark was another story. 5 stars
9/09/05 bobbi Very good story. It told the facts as people saw them from differing points of view. 4 stars
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  09-Sep-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 20-Dec-2005



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