Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
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
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