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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 Rob Gonsalves

"Only Catholicism can save you from evil."
2 stars

Back when "The Exorcist" was terrifying millions, Pauline Kael dismissed it as "the biggest recruiting poster the Catholic Church has had since the sunnier days of 'Going My Way' and 'The Bells of St. Mary's.'" Well, "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" might be trying to be the biggest recruiting poster since "The Passion of the Christ. "

This glum and undistinguished drama -- it's certainly nothing so crass as a horror movie, despite the spooky come-on of the marketing -- focuses on the battle between faith and science. A nineteen-year-old girl, Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter), died of malnutrition and general physical disrepair. (This isn't a spoiler -- it's established from the start.) The solemn priest entrusted with her care, Father Richard Moore (Tom Wilkinson), has been charged with homicidal negligence; clearly Emily's problems were medical, not spiritual. Who's right, Father Moore or the law?

Enter Erin Bruner (Laura Linney), the worldly lawyer tapped by the Archdiocese to defend Father Moore. We know she's worldly because she sips martinis at an upscale bar after getting a murderer off on a technicality. Also, she's agnostic, which is important. Grudgingly, she takes the case, going head to head with aggressive prosecutor Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott with a bad-guy mustache), a self-described man of faith who nonetheless can't hide his contempt for Father Moore's handling of Emily's ailment. (Also, he's not Catholic. That's important, too.) The noble priest doesn't actually care whether he goes to jail -- he just wants to tell the truth about what happened to Emily.

What about the movie? The Exorcism of Emily Rose claims to be based on a true story -- the story of Anneliese Michel, a German girl whose death resulted in her parents, as well as the two priests who "exorcised" her, being charged and convicted of manslaughter. Some have said that Anneliese's symptoms were consistent with major neurological illness and the psychological complications that can arise from it (a devoutly religious person, as Anneliese and the fictionalized Emily were, might interpret her affliction as demonic). So, too, with Emily, and everything the disapproving prosecutor says made perfect sense to this agnostic critic. Your mileage may vary if you believe that exorcisms are anything more than throwing pretty words ineffectually at brain damage.

We get a few flashbacks illustrating the possible rational explanation for Emily's behavior, but they are fleeting. The real meat of the flashbacks takes Father Moore's interpretation completely to heart, including an admittedly intense, high-pitched exorcism attempt in a barn. More significantly, Father Moore warns Erin that "dark forces" are surrounding the trial -- keeping up with it on CNN, one assumes -- and that she may find herself "under attack" from demons. Which she does. She wakes up at 3:00 every night, and eerie things happen. Since we see things happen that can't be explained away by science, there's no question which side the movie is on. It's neither a serious film nor a horror movie (aside from the exciting sequence in the barn); it's just an agenda put on celluloid. And the agenda is, Father knows best; the Church knows best, and never mind all those lurid stories about child-molesting priests.

I don't know whether Jennifer Carpenter can act in a more everyday role she was neurotically amusing in the few minutes of White Chicks I could stand but in the demanding role of Emily Rose she performs with more energy and pathos than even Linda Blair all those years ago. She has a haunted look even before the demons take her. She manages to outshine her more high-powered costars, who both look stranded; Linney has to pursue a murky, ill-defined character arc, and tormented sincerity comes a bit too easily to Wilkinson. (I prefer the libertine-in-a-collar he played in 1996's Priest.) The direction by Scott Derrickson is pleasingly realistic in spots -- the heavy creaking floor in the Rose household after tragedy -- and TV-ish in others; the only scene of any real visual sophistication, when a hysterical Emily skitters through the rainy night past blood-red windows, looks like an outtake from Dario Argento's Suspiria.

After mean old Ethan Thomas delivers his closing statement insisting on facts -- boo! hiss! -- Erin takes her turn, and doesn't actually refute anything, merely asks the jury to accept that Father Moore's version of events might be possible. In other words, the possibility of the Catholic Church's absolute authority in all matters should guide a serious legal decision (next week, Father Moore takes on Roe v. Wade!). The movie doesn't miss a button-pushing trick. Emily's problems don't start until she leaves her religious family and goes to college -- that hotbed of (gasp) intellectualism -- and, worse yet, starts dating a boy.

Poor Emily goes from one paternal hell to the next, and at the end, in court, Father Moore reads a letter she wrote that, in effect, exculpates him and his role in her death. Could this letter be interpreted as the delusions of a deeply sick girl in the throes of religious mania and terror? Could this movie be a reactionary tract disguised as a horror-drama? As Erin might say, it's possible.

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originally posted: 12/28/06 12:54:52
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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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