EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSEScreen Gems
2005
PG-13

“Once you’ve looked into the darkness I think you carry it with you for the rest of your life.”

Based on the very sad true story of Anneliese Michel, who went through the ordeal in the late 60’s and early 70’s, the trial of Father Moore, who conducted the exorcism of the titular character, told via flashbacks in a tense courtroom drama…

You read that right. In actuality, the style of The Exorcism Of Emily Rose is a courtroom drama (like an extended version of Law And Order: Trial By Jury), with some very deep debates on religion versus science. It’s only during the flashbacks do we see the heavy (and very well executed) supernatural horror side seep in. Basically, because this movie was marketed as a straight-up horror movie, in the same vein as The Exorcist and The Omen (still wondering what that reviewer was thinking when he wrote that), there’s a bit of confusion with most who saw it with me that night. So, keep that in mind walking into the theater…

Moving on, I must say that, all false advertising aside, The Exorcism Of Emily Rose was incredibly engaging. A very smart film, in fact still has me thinking about it (as of this writing, I got out of the theater approximately two hours ago). The material was handled very well, with both sides of the issues bringing very compelling and dissecting arguments. The two lawyers, played very well, played things tight and under-dramatic, making for some entertaining and engaging listening in. I also liked the fact that the priest on trial wasn’t portrayed as some usual crackpot and crazy Christian. Instead, he was very well-kept, strong in his faith despite his circumstances. The scenes where he’s telling his lawyer about the dark spiritual war going on was matter-of-fact, instead of the usual wild-eyed madman rantings. Nicely done, I applaude the writers…

Now, about Emily Rose herself. In a word- amazing. The actress that portrayed her did a fantastic job, working up the possession (or was it epileptic/psychotic?) angle effectively, while at the same time displaying an endearing vulnerability that drew me in completely. I found myself wanting to take her up and comfort her while she was going through her personal hell. Handled by a lesser actress, and that angle would have killed it for me. Here, I was sold on Emily’s plight…

That said, I now want to point out that the horror elements were just as effective and, I gotta say, kicked me in the teeth in various places. Very dark, stylish and often shocking flashbacks, nicely done. While the all-too-brief scenes where she’s flipping out and seeing people turn into demons were the focal point of the television ads, they were still effective (although, I must admit, even the stuff that I didn’t see coming didn’t make me jump…while the entire theater around me did. Mayhaps I’m just jaded at this point, I don’t know). The parts that got to me the most, though, were the full-on manifestations, scenes that made even myself pause and think, “That ain’t right.” I was disturbed. And that says something right there, doesn’t it?

Alas, though, those portions are few and far between, and when you get down to it, The Exorcism Of Emily Rose is really a debate on the controversial aspects of religion versus science, based around alleged supernatural events. And while the movie did effectively keep an open mind on both possibilities, the courtroom scenes did seem to drag on longer than what could have been. But don’t let that turn you off from seeing it. Bottom line is, it’s a very thought-provoking movie, with some really disturbing elements. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night, really…

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