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The Exorcism of Emily Rose - Review

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director’s Commentary; Genesis Of The Story Featurette; Casting The Film Featurette; Visual Design Featurette.

LOOSELY based upon the German case of a teenager who died during an exorcism in the mid Seventies, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is an extremely effective chiller that combines Exorcist-style horror with John Grisham-inspired courtroom antics.

Director Scott Derrickson updates the setting to modern America and casts the ever-reliable Tom Wilkinson as Father Richard Moore, the Catholic priest who performs the exorcism, only to find himself beaten by the devil and facing imprisonment for negligent homicide.

Defending him is Laura Linney’s Erin Bruner, a success-hungry atheist who has taken on the case in exchange for the guarantee of a partnership at her law firm.

Determined to bring him down, meanwhile, is Campbell Scott’s deeply religious prosecutor, who believes that Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter) was merely suffering from a combination of symptoms that could have been treated medically.

The story of Emily Rose is relayed via flashback, beginning with the night she was ‘attacked and possessed’ by the demon and culminating in the terrifying exorcism that would ultimately end her life.

Derrickson’s film, while certainly one-sided, offers an interesting mix of horror and religion that is made all the more intriguing by its courtroom setting.

It is genuinely scary when dealing with the events leading up to the exorcism and remains with you long after the verdict has been cast.

Yet it also serves as an intelligent examination of the supernatural, provoking the question ‘do demons really exist’ and how effective is the church as a weapon of combat?

The only real problem lies within Derrickson’s one-sided approach, which casts the defence team in almost angelic light at the expense of Scott’s one-dimensional prosecutor, thereby taking the edge off some of the suspense.

Wilkinson, though, provides another mesmerising presence, so earnest and committed to his faith, that he compels Linney’s equally impressive defence lawyer to confront her own cynicism and start to feel afraid.

Her own brush with the supernatural is thus made all the more chilling and allows the film to exorcise its own sense of dread throughout.

And while comparisons with The Exorcist are inevitable, this manages to side-step a lot of the obvious traps to terrify viewers on its own terms thanks, in no small part, to Carpenter’s eerie performance as Emily who contorts her body in all manner of positions for extra added effect.

With several plot-points guaranteed to creep you out for hours (if not days) afterwards, The Exorcism of Emily Rose scores highly as one of the most effective horrors of the year.

You’ll be praying you don’t wake up at 3am right after you’ve seen it!