Thursday, October 8, 2015

31 Days of Horror- Day 8: The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

(dir. Scott Derrickson)

Screen Gems
*First time viewing

After performing an exorcism that leaves a young woman dead, a priest is tried by the state for negligent homicide. His only hope lies in an agnostic defense attorney.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think most exorcism movies simply aren’t that great. Too many simply retread the steps of The Exorcist without any consideration to pace, characterization, and shock value. Those that are effective are the ones that allow the actual exorcising process to take a back seat to other supernatural phenomena or events. So with that being said, Scott Derrickson’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose is partly successful. The actual trial is the most interesting part of the movie, and with leads Tom Wilkinson and Laura Linney, the courtroom dramatics provide high-entertainment that also serves as a breath of fresh air from other exorcism-oriented movies.

The problem comes when the film incorporates flashbacks of Emily’s possession and subsequent exorcism into the trial. Now, these scenes are wonderfully directed and it’s clear Derrickson has had a great visual sense from the beginning. And, Jennifer Carpenter is equally great as Emily Rose. But the possession, demonic tongues, and back-bending feats are all routine. The flashbacks, while a reasonable narrative convenience, are boring because they’re all too familiar, regardless of how well acted or directed. The film’s ultimate message about faith is an interesting one, but I wish more time had been spent on the trial and the characters’ struggle with their beliefs. If the film had treated the audience like a jury, only allowing us to see pictures and hear recordings entered as evidence, and allowed us to make our own judgement on the story, The Exorcism of Emily Rose could have been one of the most innovative and brave horror films of the previous decade.

Scare Factor: 1/5 The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a decent film and it’s certainly entertaining and well-shot, but it’s also a frustrating film because it’s just a few alternate creative decisions away from greatness. 

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