The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

Crime, Drama, Horror, Thriller
Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Campbell Scott
A lawyer takes on a negligent homicide case involving a priest who performed an exorcism on a young girl.
  • N/A Company:
  • Unrated Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 09 Sep 2005 Released:
  • 26 Apr 2005 DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:
  • Paul Harris Boardman, Scott Derrickson Writer:
  • Scott Derrickson Director:
  • N/A Website:

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Excellent and Frightening Courtroom of Beliefs10/10
Some people are going to be shocked by the last 15 minutes of the film. It is NOT a remake or bad copy of "The Exorcist". That film is truly understandings for reasons that are pretty much its psychological ties to the fears in all of us. In "Emily Rose", the emphasis is on our perspectives, and how it affects our choices. Laura Linney is truly phenomenal in the film, and I sure hope she finally receives all the prizes that have eluded in the last few years. As a side note, I have just witnessed the remarkable work by Rachel Weisz in "The Contant Gardener", and I have to state my opinion that Ms. Linney is a bit more powerful and effective in her multi-layered performance as the defense attorney.

"Emily Rose" will have people talking because it demands its audience to take sides as it reveals the events that led to the exorcism of the title. In here, the church grants permission to go ahead and perform an exorcism on Emily Rose, the title character. Things turn out to be a little different, and suddenly the priest who performed the exorcism finds himself in the middle of a big mess. Throw in the elements of psychological and physical ailments versus theological beliefs, and you really have a collision of very powerful forces.

The film presents both sides quite well, and there are times when you have to really make an effort to avoid switching perspectives. In the end, it's very clear what the writers and filmmakers set out to do, but it's an intense and very emotional 2 hrs. The film works very well because of Wilkinson's fiery priest and the outstanding work of Campbell Scott. Yet it belongs to Laura Linney in what might be her most powerful performance yet. She truly presents a case, with steely assurance she is one of the best things to come out of Hollywood in the last two decades. Now we know her work "You Can Count on Me" and "Kinsey" were just the beginning. One could sense the power in the chilling closing scenes of "Mystic River" and her limited appearance in "The House of Mirth". Nothing comes close to what she achieves here.
Worth Watching7/10
This is an interesting film. While it's not terribly frightening, the film's juxtaposition of court room drama, and the exorcism scenes are intriguing. I found it to be less of your stereotypical demonic possession movie (ie: The Exorcist), and more of a film that leaves you pondering the possibilities and questioning our more modern perspectives and scientific rationales for things that sometimes can't be adequately explained through these means. The fact that it's based on the reported possession of Anneliese Michel (circa 1970, Germany) does make the film more unnerving. The actor's performances, while not exceptional, are at least engaging. The special effects are rather limited, but well done. All in all, It's a film that 's certainly worth watching.
Ironically enough, "The Excorcism of Emily Rose" got released in my country (Belgium) synchronously with another similar, real-life lawsuit. A self-acclaimed exorcist has to justify the death of a young girl after performing inhuman rituals and fatal exorcism tricks. It's weird having seen this movie and then follow the lawsuit on TV and in newspapers. It's so easy to deny the existence of demonic possession and to brush aside exorcism as quackery, but then – as this film shows – you're also questioning people's beliefs and family values. Emily Rose is the sympathetic daughter of a poor but deeply religious rural family. Shortly after her long-anticipated start at the university, her body becomes the host of no less than 6 different demons. The priest of the little town where she lives, father Moore, is doing everything he can to purify Emily's body but the demons are too strong and she doesn't survive the exorcism. What makes this film different than the obvious 70's classic "The Exorcist" (which also entirely revolves on the possession of an innocent girl) is that the story takes place after the actual exorcism and in the courtroom where father Moore is on trial for negligent homicide. His ambitious lawyer Erin Bruner goes straight for the acquittal of her client, but father Moore only cares for telling Emily's story, despite the fact that this can cost him his career as a priest. The screenplay of this film was based on a true story and director Scott Derrickson does a great job in making the extended courtroom sequences interesting and compelling. The flashbacks, showing Emily's horrible decrepit, are very atmospheric and contain multiple shock-moments. The acting is sublime, with a powerful Tom Wilkinson as the devoted priest and an enchanting Jennifer Carpenter as the poor Emily Rose. This is not a full-blooded horror film, but definitely one of the most unsettling, disturbing and thought-provoking dramas of the last few years. Highly recommended!
Excellent on so many levels; a lesson in mainstream film-making8/10
Wonderful, wonderful movie. A lesson in film-making. I know a lot of people won't be able to see it for what it is because of the supernatural/horror elements (which are usually a turn-off for film snobs), but the movie is just extremely well-made.

Consider the fact that Linney's character's true conflict is not winning the trial, but a satisfyingly complex internal struggle which I will not name so as not to spoil the movie. Or the plethora of food for thought that the movie offers, regarding existentialist issues of perception vs. objective truth, and social issues of liability and responsibility.

Some very interesting scenes that find ways to express things in subtle and creative ways without spelling them out. And an incredible and ballsy performance by Jennifer Carpenter, which takes Linda Blair's possession to a whole new level. Also, notice how a key dramatic monologue is presented, contrary to what we might expect, with no sentimental music in the background. The cinematography is also great. I was reminded of Dario Argento's vivid colors in Suspiria on more than one occasion.

Although it's not the focus of the film, the movie also offers a few very cool scare moments, and seeing Emily possessed is terrifying.

This is my favorite "underdog" movie of the year so far.
Not without its flaws, but a cut above most horror films8/10
For the most part, films which were intended to frighten the viewing audience usually succeed in instead producing involuntary laughs. So it was nice to see a 'horror' film that not only has a brain for a change, but actually succeeds in being frightening. It may help that the film is allegedly based on true events, which gives credibility to the storyline, and prevents the movie from having those annoyingly gaping plot holes. And indeed, the heading "Based on a true story" doesn't come off as a glaring lie. There are indeed events happening in the film which are questionable as to whether they actually occurred in real life, but the beauty of 'Emily Rose' is that most of the film is retold by various characters, so the events described are as the character perceived them. In this way, the film doesn't distance its audience by declaring that "well, demons were in the film which was 'based on a true story', so demons must actually exist".

But in many ways, 'Emily Rose' is different from almost every past horror movie in the sense that it doesn't make really obvious attempts to frighten its audience. Instead, director/co-screenwriter Scott Derickson seems content to make us think. There are several questions raised in the film regarding religious beliefs and the public's general perception of them, but these are all handled in an objective and impartial manner. And as for the scare factor, since the filmmakers aren't overly obvious in trying to scare the audience, the film actually is frightening at several points - again, unusual for a horror film. The frightening events regarding Emily Rose's exorcism are all the more frightening as they don't seem horribly staged and predictable. (although the cheesy demonic animation, as shown in the trailer, could have been done far better) It's true that composer Christopher Young seems unable to resist the horror movie cliche of having horribly over-dramatic music which builds to a climax at the most frightening moment, but for the most part the movie is able to surpass the usual horror cliches.

It helps of course that the cast all deliver quality performances, the obvious standout being Jennifer Carpenter as Emily. Her possession scenes are nothing short of incredible, the sheer torment she seems capable of portraying is utterly captivating. Laura Linney also shines in the lead, giving a powerful and affecting performance as the attorney of the convicted priest who performed Emily Rose's exorcism. As said priest, Tom Wilkinson also manages to impress, delivering a quietly effective and very human performance. My only complaint is that the characters of Campbell Scott and Colm Feore were really badly written, coming off as the typical antagonistic figures, and nothing more. Both give satisfying performances, despite their one dimensional characters, especially Feore, who has always been talented at taking terribly written characters, and giving them life and personality nonetheless.

So The Exorcism of Emily Rose may not quite be the very best of its genre, but it certainly proves to be one of the more intelligently made ones. The director seems to have for once taken that extra step, and put aside the endless thrills and shocks in favor of making us think a bit. There are some cheesy effects, such as the demonic visions, but there are some genuinely frightening parts, especially the actual exorcism scene, mainly due to the chilling and captivating performance from Jennifer Carpenter as the title character. The principle cast members, Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson also give strong performances, bringing many layers to their characters. Quite the quality piece overall, and one worth seeing.