Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a very positive review of the upcoming horror flick THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE. This is another positive to put on the pile... The advance word on this film is stellar and I'm really looking forward to it, especially if it's as much of a throwback as people are saying it is. You get a fairly detailed rundown of the plot, so if you need to stay pure you might want to tread lightly. Enjoy!!!
Hey guys. Vincent Hanna here with a review of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, if you're interested. Thanks.
Don’t be fooled by the trailer and TV spots for The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Though clips of ghoulish faces are prominently featured in an attempt to sell it as a horror flick, those scenes comprise all of a few seconds of actual screen time.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which is based on a true story, is more of a mystery and courtroom drama than horror movie. That said, there are some creepy, intense moments scattered throughout, and it’s a high-quality effort well worth seeing.
The movie begins after young Emily is already dead. A medical examiner comes to the Rose family’s isolated farmhouse in order to pronounce a cause of death. He informs the family that he can’t say for certain Emily’s death was the result of natural causes.
We then meet attorney Erin Bruner (Laura Linney). Fresh off a high-profile acquittal that has returned her to rising star status at her firm, Erin’s boss (Colm Feore) informs her that a Catholic priest, Father Richard Moore (Tom Wilkinson), will be charged with negligent homicide in the death of Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter). The local archdiocese has specifically requested that Erin defend him.
A cynical agnostic, Erin takes the case for one reason only: a longtime junior partner, she wants to be elevated to senior partner status. Do a good job defending Moore, and her name will be on the law firm door. Other than that, she has no interest in Moore or the case itself. Erin doesn’t spend much time considering spiritual matters.
Interestingly, the prosecutor on the case is a religious man, Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott). Though not a Catholic, Ethan is a devoted man of faith known for being tenacious in the courtroom. In a brief meeting with Erin prior to the start of the trial, Ethan informs her that he is not concerned with forgiveness in this matter. A young girl is dead, and “the people” want justice.
Moore refuses to even consider accepting a deal because he insists that Emily’s story must be told. The trial commences, and the story shifts back and forth between the past and the present as testimony continues.
The prosecution presents their case first. They insist that Emily suffered from epilepsy and psychosis, which could have been cured if she had continued to take medication. But she stopped because Moore told her to, and eventually died of malnutrition. Thomas constantly shows a grisly photo of her dead body to the jury. It does not appear to have been a calm, painless death.
On the other hand, the defense claims that Emily suffered from demonic possession, and that Moore loved her dearly and only wanted to help her. He had the family’s and Emily’s blessing to do so (the archdiocese isn’t quite as supportive considering the outcome). Moore testifies in his own defense, as does an anthropologist (House of Sand and Fog’s Shohreh Aghdashloo). She states that certain people are more receptive or sensitive to bodily possession and things of that nature, supporting the belief that it’s entirely possible Emily’s possession was real. Meanwhile, in flashbacks we watch as Emily quickly morphs from a happy university student (she earns a full scholarship) to a tormented, sick individual who suffers from hallucinations and violent seizures.
The trial itself is fascinating as it presents both sides of the story, though the movie definitely seems to favor the version offered up by the defense. Moore is portrayed as a decent, committed priest and Erin slowly but surely becomes convinced that he did nothing wrong. She even begins to experience strange, inexplicable things (which tend to happen at 3 A.M. for reasons that are explained by Moore during the trial).
The filmmakers do an excellent job of smoothly alternating between the trial and the events that lead up to Emily’s exorcism. The outcome of the trial is eagerly anticipated, but never to the point where you wish the movie would speed up the proceedings (it runs almost exactly two hours and the pacing is just about perfect).
Though the meat of the story takes place in the courtroom, the flashbacks provide the jolts alluded to in the trailer, and a few sequences are genuinely tense. Specifically, when Emily is first “possessed” by demons and the exorcism itself. Her pupils turn black, her voice deepens and her body violently contorts in ways it definitely isn’t supposed to. Some audience members laughed during these scenes because of the odd angles her body transforms to, but they’re highly effective and more than a little frightening as well.
If viewers go in expecting a straight-up horror movie, they are likely to be disappointed. I overheard a few people grumbling about it not being scary enough. However, the story itself is extremely compelling and writers Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson (who also directs) tell it extremely well. Details are presented slowly but surely, allowing ample time to consider both sides of the story. You almost feel like a member of the jury, carefully considering whose version you believe more.
I found it refreshing that for the most part the movie avoids horror clichÃ©s and only uses special effects sparingly, to provide a glimpse of what Emily was seeing and feeling.
There are a few shortcomings. As the movie progresses, Thomas almost becomes a conventional villain, repeatedly berating witnesses (you half expect him to twist his mustache) and acting like an asshole. Then again, maybe he was really like that. A bigger flaw is Moore himself. He remains somewhat of an enigma (Erin emerges as the main character), which is unfortunate since he is the man on trial. We learn very little about him, such as why he loves Emily so much and what makes him tick.
Overall, however, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is provocative and fulfilling. Deliberate but never boring and smart but never pretentious, with solid performances all-around, it raises complex questions and lets the viewer decide what the answers are. The verdict itself reinforces the struggle between fact and possibility, which pretty much sums up the movie.