The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)


For the third in my October Horror-thon, Netflix has brought me a movie based on the story of Anneliese Michel and her possession. The movie is called the Exorcism of Emily Rose, though it should more accurately be called The Trial of Father Richard Moore about the Exorcism of Emily Rose. But that’s a pretty long name. This movie stars Jennifer Carpenter, Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, and the Devil in a cameo.

A lawyer named Erin Bruner (Laura Linney) is convinced to defend Father Richard Moore (Tom Wilkinson) in his trial for the murder of a young girl named Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter). Father Moore had been called in to perform an exorcism on supposedly possessed Emily which eventually lead to her death and the courts have placed the blame on him. At first Father Moore is reluctant to let Bruner help him, but agrees because she agrees to let him testify so that he can tell Emily’s story. Through flashbacks during the trial, we find that Emily went to college and awoke one night smelling smoke. Then her bedsheets are pulled off by an invisible force and she is pinned down to the bed. She starts to suffer strange visions and other indications that she’s possessed. She goes to a doctor and they decide she’s epileptic and that’s also forming into a psychosis. They put her on anti-seizure medications and the prosecution is saying that Father Moore is responsible because he told her to stop taking it. Eventually Bruner decides that they’re not winning on the scientific approach and decides to take a controversial approach to her defense: she decides to defend based on the possibility that she was actually possessed. She partially reaches this conclusion after she too wakes up at 3 am smelling smoke and starts having similar, but lesser, experiences to Emily. The rest of the movie watches Father Moore’s trial to conclusion as we catch more and more of the back story through flashbacks.

There were parts to this movie I liked and parts I didn’t, but altogether I thought this was a fairly decent movie. I don’t think it has much to offer in the scares category, but it’s an interesting movie nonetheless. I found the way Bruner chose to defend her client most interesting in the movie. It’s something I’ve wondered myself fairly often. I consider myself to be a religious man, but also a man of science. As part of being religious (at least in my religion) and as part of believing in God, it stands to reason that I would also believe in demons. I’ve never had an experience with a ghost or a possessed person, but I do like watching movies and shows about them and wish I could have an experience with a ghost (not so much with a demon though). One such show I watch is Ghost Adventures. As with anything that tries to prove that ghosts exist, Ghost Adventures catches a lot of flack because the things COULD be faked. I’ve read a lot of things online that basically (and sometimes literally) say “Since this could be faked, it is obviously fake”. That’s just horse shit. This comes into this movie because the prosecution relies mostly on the fact that the symptoms that Father Moore called possession could also have been psychosis and epilepsy. But just because something COULD be something, doesn’t mean it’s not. Especially in this day, you can fake almost anything. You can make someone look like they’re levitating, you can add voices to things, you could even slap a dude wearing a sheet in there, but that doesn’t prove it didn’t happen legitimately. I’m also not saying that everything on Ghost Adventures is true and real, I’m just saying since I don’t know, I’m not going to talk out of my ass about it. I liked that they took a scientific/spiritual point of view to defend Father Moore in this movie as well. And it also got on my nerves that Bruner was an agnostic and posing the idea that MAYBE this girl really was possessed, and the prosecutor was apparently religious but every time she said something like this he would say that it was just silly. Isn’t that your religion, jackass?

Okay, I got off topic there. As for the movie, as I said, there’s really not much to the scares. Again, since I’ve never known anyone that was possessed, I reserve my opinion on whether or not they’re real. So the movie gets no scares out of me based on the fact that being possessed would be pretty freaky. And that’s where most of what I assume would be scary in this movie comes from. Other than that, it’s mostly just the cheap scares of a loud noise breaking silence, like a hallway door slamming shut as Emily is investigating it, even though it’s just the wind. Also, Emily’s possession spaz attacks tend to come off more as goofy than as scary to me. I do like a good courtroom drama though, and that part of the movie works really well. The actual exorcism itself was a little bit nifty. I mainly liked the fact that she was apparently inhabited by 6 demons and they introduced themselves in 6 different languages. That was kind of spiffy.

The performances are all pretty solid here. Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson were the ones that stood out. Linney most of all though. She had to play really conflicted based on the fact that she wanted to further her career and do right by her client and those came to clash by the end of the trial. Of course she did the right thing by her client instead, but the performance was good while the premise was cliched. Jennifer Carpenter strangely did not have much effect on me in this movie. I say it’s strange because her character name’s the one in the title. But she was dead by the time the movie started and only lived in flashbacks. Non-possessed Emily was scarcely shown in the movie and, once she was possessed, the performances tended to just come off as a little goofy.

Altogether, this movie is solidly alright. I say it depends on your expectations. I went in looking for a horror movie and found myself a little let down by even the attempt to scare me. But if you go in looking for a courtroom drama, you’ll probably think it’s pretty good. I give this movie “A Supersoaker filled with Holy Water” out of “Your mother sucks cocks in Hell!”

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others. It may help me get better.