Friday, October 8, 2010
2010 Geek Fright Fest: The Exorcism of Emily Rose
The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
Rated PG-13 (for violence)
Directed by Scott Derrickson
This film is loosely based on the true story of Anneliese Michel, a young woman from Germany who died in 1976, and believed that she was possessed by several demons. The movie centers on Father Richard Moore (Tom Wilkinson), a Catholic priest who performed a lengthy exorcism on Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter), at the behest of her parents. Emily, a devout Catholic, began experiencing frightening occurrences that led her to believe that she was possessed. After being called by her family, Father Moore began a dangerous mission to rid her of the demons. Emily eventually died from malnutrition (according to Moore, the demons wouldn't let her eat) and Father Moore was arrested for murder and neglect. His defense attorney is Erin Bruner (Laura Linney), a frank woman who doesn't believe in the supernatural and considers herself an agnostic. She is defending Moore in hopes of becoming a partner at her law firm, and disregards Moore's story about the exorcism at first, but as she becomes more involved in the case, Erin must face how she truly feels about faith and the existence of God . . . and the Devil.
Unlike other films about possession, the emphasis is less about the exorcism itself, and more focused on the aftermath - the trial and the effect of Emily's death. There are very few special effects, mostly due to Carpenter's uncanny ability for contortion and altering her voice. The special effects that do appear are standard horror fare (faces changing to those of demons, doors slamming on their own, etc.)
The prosecuting attorney, Ethan Thomas, is played by Campbell Scott, a soft-spoken actor with an excellent pedigree - his father is George C. Scott and his mother is Colleen Dewhurst (two of my favorite actors). As usual, Scott is excellent in his role. (If you are a Stephen King fan, I highly recommend checking out the audio book of King's Cell, which is read aloud by Scott.) Linney is also good in the film; she is a brilliant character actress and this role is tailor-made for her. It is Carpenter, however, that makes this movie as good as it is. She is completely convincing in her terror and her ability to convey the symptoms of possession (largely without help from special effects) is amazing, to say the least.
Although this movie has garnered mixed reviews, I think it is a solid film. It does an excellent job of presenting both sides of the story (even if it emphasizes one more strongly) and despite being more focused on the trial, it has some decent scares.
WARNING: Mild spoilers
The film takes the position that Emily was possessed and Bruner's change of faith and willingness to believe Moore's story is evidence of that. A similar film, Requiem, was made around the same time by a German director, Hans-Christian Schmid. Requiem also is based on Anneliese Michel's story, but takes the opposite view, choosing to portray the situation as the exacerbation of a young woman's delusion as a result of mental illness.
Fright Rating: 3 gasps out of possible 5
The Exorcism of Emily Rose is mostly a court room drama, with a little horror thrown in, but this scene rockets the movie up to a "3 gasp" rating. Otherwise, it's a good alternative for those who feel The Exorcist is too much for them to handle.