The Exorcism Of Emily Rose

****

Reviewed by: Kotleta

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Part courtroom drama and part horror story, this is based on a real event, as was The Exorcist, but at the final judgement, it's up to each of us what we choose to believe.

Emily Rose is a wonky-faced student from a devoutly religious background who wins a scholarship to go to New York and follow her dream of becoming a teacher. Things soon start going bump in the night and Emily ends up hysterical, hallucinating and hospitalised, convinced that she's been possessed by demons. The doctors diagnose epilepsy and prescribe drugs but when the symptoms don't stop, her parents turn to the parish priest for help.

Father Moore performs an exorcism to chase the demons out, but it doesn't work. Emily dies and the priest is charged with negligent homicide, largely because he advised her to stop taking her medication. The church wants to make a deal to keep the whole sad affair hushed up, but Father Moore is adamant. He wants to tell Emily's story in court. He wants people to hear what really happened to her.

Atmospheric and harrowing, there's a low-key psychological build up of suspense and fear. The trial plays out in a courtroom that looks more like a church and the few cringe-in-your-seat scares are economically used to great effect. Eschewing the traditional oceans of green slime and 360 degree head spins, the manifestations of Emily's debated possession could have a medical explanation as much as a spiritual one, which is what makes the film so compelling. It doesn't insist that the demons are real; it just asks us, and the jury, to consider the possibilities.

Tom Wilkinson's performance, as Father Moore, is quietly melodramatic. This is a man whose road was paved only by good intentions, regardless of the destination. Although it's Emily's story, she is the one character we never really get to know, perhaps because her personality is subsumed by the demons inside, perhaps because there is little else interesting about her.

Laura Linney is excellent as Moore's lawyer. Sceptical and ambitious, as the trial progresses she starts to question her own position and is an interesting, if predictable, contrast to the self-proclaimed Christian prosecutor who cries "objection" at every suggestion that demons, the Devil and God may indeed exist. But their actual existence is irrelevant. It's the question of whether the Rose family's belief in them justified Father Moore's actions that is on trial.

Sometimes there are no answers.

Reviewed on: 25 Nov 2005
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Courtroom drama debates fundamental religious beliefs against a backdrop of imagined horror.
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Anton Bitel *

Director: Scott Derrickson

Writer: Paul Harris Boardman, Scott Derrickson

Starring: Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Jennifer Carpenter, Campbell Scott, Colm Feore, Mary Beth Hurt, Henry Czerny, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Joshua Close, Ken Welsh, Duncan Fraser, J R Bourne

Year: 2005

Runtime: 119 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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