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Overall Rating

Awesome: 23.47%
Worth A Look36.73%
Average: 18.37%
Pretty Bad: 18.37%
Total Crap: 3.06%

8 reviews, 50 user ratings

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Exorcism of Emily Rose, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Decent horror; very good courtroom drama."
5 stars

In my estimation, there are few phrases that can be attached to a horror movie that do it a bigger disservice than "based on a true story". I can accept ghosts and demons in the context of a fantasy, and can find myself shocked and surprised by them when that fantasy is executed especially well, but actually BELIEVING and WORRYING about them? That, I fear, is asking too much.

Though the number of credulous people in the world is larger than I might hope, I'm not alone in this world-view. Fortunately, the courtroom drama structure of Exorcism is not just about allowing the audience to act as jury - if you're already predisposed to one opinion or other, that's not going to be much of a source of tension. Instead, the film functions as an examination on how the spiritual/supernatural and the strictly rational collide in American life. The question the jury must decide is not just whether or not young Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter) was actually possessed, but whether her parish priest's sincere belief that she was is enough that her death while under her care can be considered a crime.

Arguing that it was is Assistant District Attorney Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott), a prosecutor chosen for both his strength as a prosecutor and his strong church ties. Defending Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson) is Erin Bruner (Laura Linney), an ambitious lawyer instructed by the diocese to avoid controversy, though her own ambition may lead to her allowing the priest to tell Emily's story on the stand. Thomas will argue that what the Roses and Father Moore took for possession were in fact the symptoms of a seldom-diagnosed form of epilepsy, while Bruner will produce witnesses and an expert witness of her own (Shoreh Aghdashloo) to argue that possession is possible and that, in any case, what's important is that Moore and the Roses believed it was possible. The presiding judge (Mary Beth Hurt) will have to walk a tightrope to determine what place religious beliefs have in a court of law.

If there's a flaw in this otherwise excellent movie, it's that director Scott Derrickson (who co-wrote the film with producer Paul Harris Boardman) is on occasion too willing to make this a supernatural horror story; a few scenes with Linney seem to cast aside carefully nurtured ambiguity. Pity, because the scenes where we see Emily's frightening behavior cast as either medical or demonic depending on who is doing the telling are excellent: While Derrickson creates a bombastic, violent atmosphere in Bruner's version, Thomas's are equally, if differently, scary, where the steady camera and lack of music forces the audience to look at something it can't immediately categorize while confronting how the body can turn against itself.

The cast is, for the most part, everything one would want of them. Even if I don't like or approve of Bruner's gradual change from ambitious shark to true believer, I believe it. I may have snorted in disgust at her closing argument, but Linney sells that the character believes it and could convince a jury. Campbell Scott, meanwhile, uses his peculiarly deep voice and clipped way of speaking to command authority and also suggest a hint of arrogance - the audience may perhaps want him taken down a peg even if he's the one talking sense. Tom Wilkinson is dependable as always (and sporting a much better accent than what he used in Batman Begins), projecting a belief that can be seen as frightening or righteous depending on your point of view. And though we see her only in flashbacks, Jennifer Carpenter makes a strong impression as the doomed Emily, who despite being the first in her family attend college is still relatively unsophisticated - nice, but in way over her head.

Parts of the movie frustrated me, because I come in thinking that the supernatural is pretty silly, and hearing explanations like "3am is the witching hour because it's the opposite of the time of the crucifixion" makes me ask inconvenient questions about time zones and daylight savings time. And yet, the parts that aggravated me are also what makes it work in some instances; if it's meant to be a movie about how superstition can still trump rational thought even in the twenty-first century, it works; but it can also be seen as a story about where the boundaries between church and state can break down.

So, well done. And, hey, it works if someone just wants a horror movie, too.

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originally posted: 11/30/05 02:06:58
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User Comments

3/31/17 IP It's decent 4 stars
10/30/16 morris campbell chilling the exorcist meets Law&order 4 stars
9/19/16 Alison Taylor Thought it was great! Don't get the neg reviews. I'm a screenwriter who studies filmmaking. 5 stars
12/29/13 Monday Morning Loathed it. 2 stars
3/19/12 Kelly Green Shows that they DO still make good horror flims! 5 stars
11/25/08 CTT Courtroom/horror hybrid does neither well enough 3 stars
10/16/08 Jon Rather frightening that something similar to this really happened. Really tests beliefs. 5 stars
4/27/08 Jack Sommersby Pretty adequate stuff that managed to truly frighten me in places. 3 stars
3/10/08 Jayme Isaacs Good Movie 5 stars
11/28/07 mb I left it after 36 min 2 stars
11/20/07 R.W.Welch Reasonably spooky and mostly interesting fictionalization of German possession case. C+ 3 stars
9/21/07 Airra The actress who played as Emily Rose should've been nominated for the Academy Awards. 5 stars
9/17/07 William Goss Carpenter is good, but not good enough in courtroom drama laced w/ fright-based flashbacks. 4 stars
7/11/07 Hello Stranger lagged and dragged moslty. but this is challenging to beliefs.great acting by Carpenter 4 stars
5/01/07 Indian dude What the hell was this? The whole movie was about a damn court case. 1 stars
2/17/07 Vip Ebriega One of the most religous thrillers since 'The Exorcist' and 'The Omen'. 3 stars
1/22/07 David A. It combines horror and courtroom drama, making you question your own beliefs. 4 stars
10/22/06 veronique i don't scare easily but this movie almost made me cry. EXCELLENT!!!! 5 stars
7/24/06 JenDenmark A scary movie that is actually scary!! Great casting as well! 5 stars
6/30/06 MP Bartley A mixture of genres that really shouldn't work...but does to great effect. 4 stars
6/02/06 LC I fell asleep towards the end. 2 stars
4/03/06 Keely TOTALLY AWESOME acting, storyline, sound effects-not just another dumb horror. LOVED IT!!! 5 stars
3/08/06 richard citra good film 4 stars
2/21/06 Indrid Cold The freak-out sequence a la Jacob's Ladder is cool, but otherwise just OK. 3 stars
1/17/06 gabi it was ok 4 stars
12/10/05 ahmed kamal awadallah i really felt it 5 stars
11/30/05 Gogo movie was great for me coz i was interested in law and of Emily Rose story, ppl disagreed 5 stars
11/28/05 Aisha pretty creepy film worth watching 4 stars
11/09/05 Alice Very good acting! One of the better excorsism movies. 4 stars
11/01/05 john bale Using a Court Room as basis for flashbacks this is a frightening essay, well scripted acted 5 stars
11/01/05 M Excorsist' had pea-soup vomit and spinning heads, 'Emily Rose' is a true story! scared?? 5 stars
11/01/05 Damien That Damn Movie was Great 5 stars
10/25/05 DEEDeeDEEe All I can Say is,If You dont wear Dipers now would be a good time, BASED ON TRUE SHIT! WTF 4 stars
10/24/05 Shamus "Would you like some horror with your horror movie, sir?" 2 stars
10/24/05 GiR I almost peed my pants. what great acting, 'cuz it freaked the hell outta me. 4 stars
10/24/05 M. Mediocre would be high praise. One of the most boring movies I have ever seen. 1 stars
10/07/05 Louise McChrystal It was good, scary in a good way, good actors 4 stars
10/07/05 Carolyn Rathburn Eerie, just plain eerie 4 stars
9/30/05 Brad K. Wait for it to come out on video. Waste of $10. 2 stars
9/29/05 Angela J A great movie for thinkers! 4 stars
9/26/05 brittney very deep.. people who are religous.. very deep for them 5 stars
9/22/05 maktabozzahra very 1 stars
9/17/05 keith mccormick xcellent challenge viewers to question what is personal reality 5 stars
9/15/05 jcjs nice 4 stars
9/13/05 Robert In a strange way it is better than what I had expected. Certainly worth the viewing. 4 stars
9/13/05 David McDaniel boring and long 2 stars
9/12/05 Raul Trevino This movie scared the hell out of me! Driving home 45 miles in the dark was another story. 5 stars
9/10/05 bobbi Very good story. It told the facts as people saw them from differing points of view. 4 stars
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  09-Sep-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 20-Dec-2005



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