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The Exorcism Of Emily Rose (Mark's take)

01/05/2006. Contributed by Mark R. Leeper

Buy The Exorcism Of Emily Rose in the USA - or Buy The Exorcism Of Emily Rose in the UK

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This is a courtroom drama about an alleged demonic possession and the resulting exorcism, finds Mark. The story is loosely based on real events. The Exorcism Of Emily Rose sports a very good cast, solid production values, and an intelligent script. By modern standards the gore is minimal and most of the thrills come from production craftsmanship.

That quality treatment has become a rarity among horror films. It does not make this a classic, but it is a decent and even compelling horror film. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10.

The Exorcism Of Emily Rose is something I do not remember ever having seen before. It is a horror film told mostly in flashback as a courtroom drama. As the film opens, Emily Rose (played by Jennifer Carpenter) has died while under the care of her parish priest Father Moore (played by Tom Wilkinson) after a siege of what is said to be demonic possession.

Moore is charged with negligent homicide for the death and the Church hires Erin Bruner (Laura Linney), a successful lawyer hoping to make partner in her firm. Moore is dissatisfied with having a high-powered lawyer and wants only that the truth of the case be known. For the prosecution the court has chosen Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott). Thomas, in a somewhat unprofessional mustache, is a religious man. He is putting his personal beliefs aside for his duty to prove that Emily Rose had been attacked not by demons, but by epilepsy and hysteria.


Even though this is supposed to be based on a true story, we are in the world of a horror film. The script tries to be even- handed, letting both sides appear to believe in their cause. The producers of the film can claim that the film is impartial. However, the mere fact that Emily's horrific visions are shown on the screen as if they were real leads the viewer to believe that the filmmaker was on the side of making the possession real.

Admittedly, in films like A BEAUTIFUL MIND and PROOF what we are intended to accept as mental delusions are shown very literally on the screen. Even if the supernatural were given even-handed treatment it would lend credence to that point of view. On the other hand, the fact that the story of Emily Rose is mostly related in the third person tells us what we see on the film is only what Emily was saying she had seen.

There are some screen touches that seem odd. In a recently adjourned courtroom still full of people she tells her client in an audible voice that they are going to lose. That seems unprofessional, as does telling the jury that "facts leave no room for possibilities" as if facts are a bad thing. This does not strike me as a good thing to say in a court of law.

When Emily expresses stigmata they appear in the wrong places on her body. That is historically inaccurate as is, I believe, portraying the Virgin Mary as a blonde. In the media the traditional hour of evil, going back to "Ruddigore" (if not before), has always been midnight. In this film we are told it is 3 AM. Much of what happens in this film that is evil happens at 3 AM.

The style of the film is intentionally oppressive. A very limited colour palette is used with colours keyed to themes. Green is used in scenes of confinement, red for danger. Background sound in very low registers contributes to the viewers' unease, as does a score that has little or no melody. The visual movement relies heavily on handheld camera and other flexible camera effects. There seem to be many echoes of THE EXORCIST, though it is hard to imagine a film about exorcism that does not echo that film. Another scene involving a car accident is strongly reminiscent of NIGHT OF THE DEMON.

This is a well-produced, atmospheric film with a lot of familiar faces. But the intelligent script is the best touch. I rate The Exorcism Of Emily Rose a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

Mark R. Leeper

Copyright 2006 Mark R. Leeper

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