Publicity Stills of "The Exorcism of Emily Rose"
(Courtesy from Columbia TriStar)

Photo by Diyah Pera

Photo by Diyah Pera

Photo by Diyah Pera

Photo by Diyah Pera

Genre: Drama/Horror/Thriller
Director: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Campbell Scott, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Jennifer Carpenter
RunTime: 2 hrs
Released By: Columbia TriStar
Rating: PG

Release Date: 10 November 2005

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In an extremely rare decision, the Catholic Church officially recognized the demonic possession of a 19 year-old college freshman. Told in terrifying flashbacks, "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" chronicles the haunting trial of the priest accused of negligence resulting in the death of the young girl believed to be possessed. Inspired by true events, the film stars Laura Linney as the lawyer who takes on the task of defending the priest (Tom Wilkinson) who performed the controversial exorcism.

Movie Review:

Until today, in relation to films, the word exorcism is synonymous with The Exorcist alone. It has also happened to be dubbed as the scariest movie of all time by many. Many films of the genre have tried to shake The Exorcist of its mantle but have failed to do so time and again. A prequel, which has two different versions made by two different directors, is nothing short of forgettable. So, if you downrightly think The Exorcism of Emily Rose intends to do what its predecessors have been trying, think again. Sure, Emily Rose has an exorcism scene which might rival the one in Exorcist but it is in a category far different from The Exorcist.

Do not be fooled. Emily Rose is a fictional character but the story is true. In the seventies, a young German lady by the name of Anneliese Michel was possessed as Emily Rose was. Strangely enough, The Exorcist was released in Germany not long before the incident occurred, which of course stirred parts of Europe. Now, it might be easy for critics to slam the film for fictionalizing other parts of the story and compare it to The Exorcist. But, as mentioned earlier in this review, Emily Rose is of a different mould. Sure, the trailers might be slightly misleading, so be warned now that the setting of Emily Rose is predominantly in the courtrooms.

Sure, Emily Rose is not written by the likes of John Grisham but the combination of the legal, ethical and religious issues alone causes much suspense that as an audience member, you would be forced to consult your perspectives and challenging your choices causing you, to time after time sway your support for each side. And thus, the director, Scott Derrickson has chosen a simplistic way to showcase the movie. He avoids massive fanfare or over-the-top balderdash. The result is a direct flow despite being told in flashbacks when it gets to Emily Rose’s parts.

By now, it is pretty clear that Emily Rose is not a horror film per se. Despite that, it has its spine-tingling moments. To observe Emily progressively deteriorate slowly but surely on screen prepares the audience for the worst to come albeit Derrickson’s decision to use cheap scare tactics like slamming doors and clichéd omens. What Emily Rose has is a climatic exorcism scene that will make you cling to the edge of your seat. The execution is done without the use of green vomit and a slew of expletives but rather with the help of rain, horses, a stubborn priest and one badass demon.

Speaking of demons, the possessed Emily Rose is played to perfection by Jennifer Carpenter in her first lead role in a film. Surely, Carpenter must thank her co-star, Laura Linney for recommending her to play the titular role. This after Linney performed in a theatre production of ‘The Crucible’ with Carpenter and described the latter as “extraordinarily talented”. Indeed, as Emily Rose, Carpenter stuns the audience with the ability to contort her body in the most excruciating positions thinkable. With the exception that you’d be thinking she probably is a gymnast; you’d feel sympathetic with Emily Rose’s plight as you’ll observe first hand the frailty and deterioration of the physical self.

The film, which some have referred to as a B-grade horror flick is not shy of marquee names. In fact, it is boosted by the presence of three Academy Award nominated thespians in the form of Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson and Shoreh Agdashloo (whose part is sadly reduced to a cameo appearance). Rounding off the cast is the usually villainous Colm Feore and the underrated yet reliable Campbell Scott.

In all honesty, if not for these actors, the final cut of Emily Rose could have been half-baked. Tom Wilkinson is spot-on as Father Moore, the priest accused of negligent homicide but he fared much better in In The Bedroom. Laura Linney, like Wilkinson, performed up to par but lacked the panache of her performances in films like You Can Count on Me and Kinsey. But paired with Campbell Scott, Linney’s frightened lawyer provides the balance to Scott’s district attorney who’s a man of faith. Their battle with regards to the facts versus faith issue is one of the smartest scenes this year to occur in the courtroom.

If given a choice, avoid comparing The Exorcism of Emily Rose to the Exorcist or anything of that sort. At the same time, forget about comparing it to the likes of A Time To Kill or Runaway Jury. Emily Rose has a right to be called unique and granted a genre of its own because a fusion of horror and the courtroom has not been done before. If you’re up for a social-drama that will challenge your convictions yet stir your fears, then Emily Rose is the film for you. Otherwise, stop complaining that you were expecting a horror flick.

Movie Rating:

(Emily Rose is a unique film that forces you to think and be scared at the same time!)

Review by Mohamad Shaifulbahri

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