The Exorcism of Emily Rose is an interesting film based on an actual court case in which a priest was charged with negligent homicide for persuading a young girl to stop her medication and undergo an exorcism. This is more of a courtroom drama than a horror film despite the marketing and while there is little in the way of scares it is an interesting and thought provoking film.
The case centres around a young girl called Emily Rose who leaves her tight knit, deeply religious community to attend university in the city. Within a few weeks of beginning her new life she has a nasty experience while alone in her dorm room and becomes convinced that evil spirits have possessed her body. The doctors she visits think otherwise, they conduct a series of tests and decide that she is suffering from an unlikely combination of epilepsy and psychotic episodes.
Emily is put on medication but she continues to get worse and eventually is taken home to stay with her family. They cannot cope with her increasingly strange behaviour and so they call in the local parish priest, Father Moore. Since the medication seems to be having no effect he suggests she stop taking it and tries to perform an exorcism. The exorcism is a disaster and Emily dies a few days later leading to the arrest of Father Moore and the trial on which the film centres. Father Moore is defended by the high-flying and cynical lawyer Erin Bruner. The story is told via a series of recounted scenes during the trial and Erin gets drawn into the beliefs of her client as some strange occurrences begin to make her doubt her lack of belief.
This is an interesting film, in true Hollywood style loosely based on a true story. The trailer for the film includes all of the scary moments and anyone expecting a horror flick along the lines of The Exorcist will be sorely disappointed. This is in fact a slow-paced courtroom drama which is a little too slow at times and can leave the audience yawning.
The direction from relative newcomer Scott Derrickson is competent and he does inject some tension at moments. The few chilling scenes that do occur are nicely done and the trial is very well handled. The plot is somewhat confused and it would be interesting to know how much Hollywood bent the truth, I suspect a lot. Some of the arguments weren´t really supportable but there is always room for manoeuvre when you refer to an ideology which demands blind faith.
The acting in the film is very good, Laura Linney played the typical Hollywood lawyer in Erin Bruner, a character who is basically good and undergoing an internal battle with regard to her morally questionable actions in defending her clients. Tom Wilkinson gave the best performance of the movie as Father Moore, although he did make the character very sympathetic and you have to wonder whether this tallies with what actually happened. Campbell Scott was good as Ethan Thomas, the public prosecutor and the frighteningly emaciated Jennifer Carpenter did a great job as Emily.
The script from Paul Harris Boardman and the director Scott Derrickson is good in places and flawed in others. Watching the film you cannot help but feel that they are legitimising the claims of the religious people involved and pandering to the idea that demons do exist which is obviously totally ridiculous and somewhat disappointing.
While I felt the film was wrongly billed as a horror movie and dragged for stretches of the 113 minute running time it did provoke some interesting arguments and ideas and ultimately it exceeded my limited expectations. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is by no means an excellent film but the controversial subject matter is liable to make it popular within certain circles and it is well made.