The Exorcism of Emily Rose Movie Review
A courtroom drama meets horror film, "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" is an interesting blend of terror and believability that succeeds in scaring the crap out of you. Starring Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson and newcomer Jennifer Carpenter as the title character, the movie is all but guaranteed to scare you in a way few horror movies have in recent years.
"Emily Rose" is very roughly based on the true events that revolved around one Anneliese Michel, according to one online publication. A religious girl from birth, Emily won her way into college and soon began to suffer symptoms comparable to epilepsy. However, medications didn't work and she proceeded to get more violent in her actions, and see demons and other horrible things. After a while, a priest (Wilkinson) was brought in to help her, but his exorcism attempts failed and she died of starvation. The movie is about the trial of the priest and the attempts by his lawyer (Linney) to save him from prison. As the film goes on, flashbacks recount the horrifying transformation Emily suffered through.
Having read the story about the true events, probably five percent of the film is even slightly accurate. Furthermore, it is clear that the film could have been even better had it included more of the strange and violent things that happened to Emily (apparently her knees ruptured from the spasms). Supposedly, she was possessed by several demons, including Hitler (the demon spoke in a Frankish accent). Not only did the priest go on trial, but her parents did as well; that was something I thought was odd about the movie - why would the priest be put on trial for neglect when it was her parents who held the ultimate decision.
Regardless of the film's shortcomings in the fact department, "Emily Rose" is a truly frightening film, not only because it puts sound effects and visuals to work perfectly but because these events did apparently happen in some way or form. Right now, I'm getting goose bumps just from writing this review as I picture all the weird, contorted faces Ms. Carpenter was able to pull off; she is the true highlight of the film. Carpenter is absolutely incredible here; she is scary beyond words.
Unfortunately, the other half of the movie, the courtroom sequences, aren't nearly as good. Never bad, they never really feel cohesive and strong enough to carry the story. Both Linney and Wilkinson are decent, but neither turn in their best performances. Other performances seemed a bit stale as well, or perhaps the screenplay needed some fine tuning. The movie really struggles in the last ten or fifteen minutes as it works toward the verdict and veers away from the horror. In fact, I was expecting a whole new sequence that looked at the last days of Emily Rose to be included at the end, but instead the movie just finishes. Not the best way to end a horror movie, I must say.
Still, "Emily Rose" is a freaky movie that is scary from beginning to end. Director Scott Derrickson has pulled off a mini-masterpiece here, and while it isn't perfect, it is a hell of a lot better than most horror movies to come out in recent years. This movie is the next "Exorcist."
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.