The Exorcism Of Emily Rose

"OK"

The Exorcism Of Emily Rose Review


Part spine-tingling horror movie, part unorthodox courtroom drama, "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" maintains a surprisingly deft balance between the two parts of its plot, but still runs into trouble because it's ironically more credible as the former than the latter.

Inspired by the real trial of a priest (Tom Wilkinson) charged with negligent homicide for an exorcism gone wrong, co-writer and director Scott Derrickson provides the film with flashbacks to the alleged possession of a naive Catholic college student (newcomer Jennifer Carpenter) that are far more down-to-earth than any effects-driven exorcism chiller -- and therefore more disturbing as well.

Carpenter's ability to contort her face and body into seemingly broken forms is spooky enough all on its own, but add her over-dilated eyes, her bug-eating, her self-mutilation, her demonic speaking-in-tongues and the decaying faces with scooped-out eyes she sees all around her, and Emily Rose makes "The Exorcist's" Regan MacNeil look like a carnival ride.

The courtroom scenes that frame these episodes start strongly as well, with the gifted Laura Linney ("Kinsey," "Mystic River") playing the priest's skeptical defense attorney. A rising hot-shot who recently got a serial killer off the hook (but not without consequences), she takes this case in order to make partner at her firm. The fact that she begins experiencing the same midnight hauntings that started Emily's downward spiral seems to be a bit of artistic license, but it certainly adds tension to the film.

Unfortunately, her trail strategy is clearly driven by narrative concerns and not jurisprudence -- and as a result she comes off looking like she got her law degree from a box of Cracker Jack. When Emily's devout, struggling farm family is on the stand, Linney asks them about anything but the night of the failed exorcism itself. When she digs up a doctor who studies possessions from a scientific point of view, the rather mystic Indian woman (Shohreh Aghdashloo, "House of Sand & Fog") looks like a quack to the folksy Midwestern jury. Doesn't Linney interview and coach her witnesses before putting them on the stand?

And when the priest testifies -- he has refused a plea bargain specifically because "what I care about is telling Emily Rose's story" -- she only lets him recount half his tale before cross-examination (Campbell Scott is the religious but relentless prosecutor), then recalls him later in the trial for the rest, because otherwise the film wouldn't have a third act.

"The Exorcism of Emily Rose" has its fair share of keen surprises of both legal and supernatural origins, and Derrickson does a fine job of walking a line between faithful and skeptical views of the film's events. The twisting of the same medical evidence to fit both prosecution and defense strategies is particularly cunning.

But sometimes he flat-out cheats the audience. He'll show a witness's direct questioning, but not show the cross-examination. He'll imply the importance of a locket, yet not one character ever thinks to ask what's inside.

The film maintains a certain power through its uniformly impeccable performances and its substantial ambiance, which captures both the austerity of its farm-county setting (the courtroom is a bland brick building, not an ostentatious Hollywood set) and the dark, shadowy terrors of Emily's trauma, played out in flashback (often featuring shaky-cam overkill) through the priest's vivid testimony.

Derrickson clearly fancies his film a large intellectual step up from the horror genre, but the structural concessions in his courtroom plot -- made to accommodate those flashbacks in a way that builds maximum apprehension -- are so blatant they become more of a hindrance than a help in telling the story. "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" does garner goosebumps and does engage you on a cerebral level as well, but the big picture just is not the sum of its parts.



The Exorcism Of Emily Rose

Facts and Figures

Run time: 119 mins

In Theaters: Friday 9th September 2005

Production compaines: Screen Gems, Lakeshore Entertainment, Firm Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 33%
Fresh: 2 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Erin Bruner, as Father Moore, as Ethan Thomas, as Emily Rose, as Dr. Mueller, as Judge Brewster, as Karl Gunderson

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

Advertisement
The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

The BFG Movie Review

The BFG Movie Review

For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...

Finding Dory Movie Review

Finding Dory Movie Review

It's been 13 years since the release of the Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, and filmmaker...

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

This is where the Star Trek franchise officially shifts from thoughtful drama into thunderous action....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.