When a younger girl called Emily Rose dies, everyone puts blame on the exorcism which was performed on her by Father Moore prior to her death. The priest is arrested on suspicion of murder. The trail begins with lawyer Erin Bruner representing Moore, but it is not going to be easy, as no one wants to believe what Father Moore says is true.
2005, was the world ready for another exorcism movie? It had been some time since the weight of “The Exorcist” had passed and though there were plenty of films that dealt with the subject matter, none had really stepped up to the plate in the right way to shock and awe audiences in the same way. Along came director Scott Derrickson who thought there was a story waiting to be told. “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” was loosely based on the story of Anneliese Michel who underwent a rather well documented case of exorcism. The movie went on to make an impressive box office draw, was voted in as one of the scariest films of all time, and won the main star Jennifer Carpenter an MTV award of “most frightened performance”.
Whether the film gels with your version of an exorcism film, there is no denying that it still had impact. The film unlike others takes place mostly in the confines of a court room. The film begins upon Emily Rose’s death and by use of flashbacks and storytelling proceeds to unveil the actual story of what happened. Erin Bruner played by Laura Linney is assigned a rather touchy case defending a priest from a murder trial. The church foundation wants this case handled carefully as it threatens to embarrass them. Erin, who is considered a rising star of a lawyer is asked to defend the priest who goes by the name of Father Richard Moore¬† (Tom Wilkinson). As it stands, the case stands to prove that Moore was negligent in Emily’s case by not getting her medical treatment in her final days and by recommending that she stop taking a psychotic prescribed drug that would have subdued her mental illness.
Moore wants his story told about what really happened and the extent of the supernatural elements involved in her case. Emily, a previously bright, happy student is shown as she transformed over the course of days thru an assumed demonic possession that changed her both mind, body and spirit. In these moments, Emily is presented in harrowing fashion that was reported to have been mostly performed by the actress herself without digital aid. It is this performance that is most impressive who at times uses her control of body contortion and facial expression to really sell the role on screen. In the summit of her performance she calls out the names of 6 demons who possess her with the last being Lucifer himself. She also further cites that her suffering will make others understand and bring them closer to GOD.
The film progresses as the trial is called out in front of witnesses with the state claiming medical implications and the defense relying on a more spiritual defense.
What was different about this film was that it didn’t follow the normal formula of demonic films. It is part a courtroom drama and part a telling of a young girl who was terrorized by demons. In this sense, the horror is effective when Emily’s story is told, but is also reduced to a sense of relief when it reverts back to the courtroom drama. While I believe the premise of the film works as a whole, the terror experience is only delivered in segments rather than a fright fest from start to finish. Even with that said, the Emily Rose moments are some of the most harrowing in horror cinema.
The critics who dismissed it might have been better appeased without the courtroom case but to the effect of the directors intentions it brings a story full circle. It also proposes in subtle ways a religious message that GOD is not dead, that demons are real and that faith is something that can’t be judged solely by mans laws and perspectives. With all that being said, “the Exorcism if Emily Rose is an amazing film that has earned a rightful place among the demonic possession stories done with finesse, taste and a bit of fear inducing moments. Whether admitted or not, the film has gone on to inspire countless other copy cat premises most notably the rather over publicized “Last Exorcism”.