Preview by: Jack Foley
ONE of the more intriguing horror films to be coming our way
over the next few months looks set to be The Exorcism of Emily
Rose, a courtroom drama/horror film that is based on a true story.
The events in question relate to the first time the Catholic
Church ever granted an exorcism and chronicle the repurcussions
of the event.
The ever-reliable Tom Wilkinson plays the Catholic priest who
performs the exorcism, only to find himself on trial for homicidal
negligence after it fails.
The exorcism was designed to rid a teenage girl, Emily Rose (Jennifer
Carpenter), of demonic possession but instead she dies from assorted
wounds and malnutrition.
Assigned to defend the priest is Laura Linney's ambitious Erin
Bruner, who is a self-confessed religious sceptic, while lining
up against them is Campbell Scott's chief prosecutor, who argues
persuasively that Emily was more likely suffering from psychotic
epilepsy and could have been saved with hospitalization and medicine.
The ensuing tale plays like a cross between The
Exorcist and a taut courtroom drama and is genuinely scary
in places (we have already caught a preview and been terrified
in all the right places).
Needless to say, the courtroom drama doesn't just focus on the
criminal element of the trial, but also the importance of recognizing
the limits of rationality and the possibility of a world beyond
It is sure to provoke some furious debate, as well as having
viewers scurrying to find out more about the case of Emily Rose
once they have seen it.
The film has already been a box office hit in America (and deservedly
so) for it is a superior chiller in a year that has largely been
devoid of such things (save for The
It opens in the UK on November 25.
The critical reaction from America to The Exorcism of Emily Rose
was oddly mixed, with some slating it and others hailing it as
a very good horror film that benefits from its legal spin.
Entertainment Weekly, for instance, described
it as 'an intelligent inquiry into the limitations of belief and
faith as a defense in a court of law woo-wooed up with a heaping
of religious-girl-gone-mad conniption fits'.
While Newsday declared that 'the no-nonsense
ferocity of Linney's defense attorney binds this split-personality
film, keeping us in the game whenever it threatens to buckle under
the combined weight of ambition and silliness'.
But Rolling Stone was more negative stating
that 'director and co-writer Scott Derrickson thinks he's not
ripping off the 1973 Exorcist, presumably because his effects
are too tacky to work up a scare or a convincing case for possession'.
While Arizona Republic declared that 'The Exorcism
of Emily Rose is more courtroom drama than horror movie, playing
like a rejected TV spinoff -- Law & Order: SSU (Special Satanic
The New York Times was also indifferent, stating:
"While not especially good, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, directed
by Scott Derrickson, is still a fascinating cultural document
in the age of intelligent design."
But Ebert and Roeper were fans, stating: "Very
scary stuff. And as a courtroom drama, very effective."
And the Washington Post declared: "There's
no green vomit and nobody's head ever rotates a full 360; we stay
in the natural world and never enter a movie world, and that makes
the movie a lot better."
Another negative view was posted by the New York Post
which lamented: "The most frightening thing about
The Exorcism of Emily Rose is how three Oscar-nominated actors
were talked into working with Scott Dietrickson, writer-director
of the direct-to-video Hellraiser: Inferno."
But the San Francisco Chronicle sums up this
overview with the verdict: "Emily Rose is the thinking person's
demon possession movie."