The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

June 15, 2008 § Leave a comment

Thankfully, The Exorcism of Emily Rose isn’t a third rate remake of the Exorcist, but instead tries something different, combining the genres of courtroom drama and horror film. Depending on your perspective, Emily Rose suffered from some combination of epilepsy and psychosis and needed medical help, or fought demonic possession with the help of her priest (it’s also possible, of course, she fervently believed she was demonically possessed).

Based on a true story, her priest is on trial in the film for possible criminal negligence, and in particular for suggesting she stop taking her medication.The film has good production values but is also well cast with solid performances, particularly from Jennifer Carpenter as Emily Rose, who was capable of such convincing physical twitches and struggles that it helped convince the filmmakers to scale back the special effects and instead use them to enhance her performance (though effects are still used here). One of the most disturbing scenes in the film is a simple one where Rose is found lying on the floor. I won’t ruin it here, but be warned, it’s creepy stuff.

If the effects are restrained, the attempt to be objective here is less successful. It reminds me of Inherit the Wind, a film where both faith and science are brought to a courtroom, and though both sides are presented, the viewer is ultimately encouraged in a direction, because all it takes is for certain characters to be more likeable or articulate. The use of flashbacks and a courtroom framework drains some of the suspense, but there are still disturbing moments and interesting ideas to be found here, and even the attempt to be objective is admirable. Strangely, while the disc has a featurette each on story, casting, and design, any mention of the “true” story that inspired it (a little digging tells me this is apparently documented in the book The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel) has been excluded, which is unfortunate.

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