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Review: The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) 

Directed by: Scott Derrickson

Premise: An up and coming attorney (Laura Linney) defends a Catholic priest (Tom Wilkinson) after a woman he attempted to exorcise (Jennifer Carpenter) dies.

What Works: For most of the story, the film walks the line between secularism and religiosity. This keeps the interest up and makes the film accessible to a wider audience. Tom Wilkinson gives another great performance as the priest whose firm belief sells the seriousness of the supposed supernatural threat without falling into priest stereotypes. Linney’s possible encounters with the supernatural are subjective enough that they are engaging and enhance the creepiness.  

What Doesn’t: This film is being marketed as though it is The Exorcist but this is more of a courtroom drama than a horror film. Emily Rose has serious problems with objectivity and subjectivity. The exorcism and all events leading to it are told in flashback through courtroom testimonies. The film’s visual presentation of the events does not take advantage or even address the issues of point of view or the subjectivity of memory, and instead presents the events through an objective lens. This is gives the viewer a false impression of the nature of the event and makes its conflicts much simpler than they should be, especially since the story is probing the relationship between facts and beliefs . At the film’s conclusion, the evenhandedness that is part of the film’s intrigue is dropped and when it is, the film slips into religious proselytizing.

Bottom Line: The Exorcism of Emily Rose successfully combines the courtroom and horror genres, making it unique. Some of its storytelling follows predictable X-Files and Law and Order conventions and in the end it gives up the ambiguity that carries it in the middle, but it is entertaining and should be enjoyed by those who liked The Exorcist or The Devil’s Advocate.

Episode: #67 (September 11, 2005)