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Review: The Exorcism of Emily Rose

d possibly be the cure to restore your hope in Hollywood. Though marketed as a horror flick, The Exorcism of Emily Rose avoids using clichéd exorcism-genre devices.

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September 10, 2005|10:07 am

If recycled and formulaic movie plotlines have kept you away from the movie theatres this year, then The Exorcism of Emily Rose could possibly be the cure to restore your hope in Hollywood. Though marketed as a horror flick, The Exorcism of Emily Rose avoids using clichéd exorcism-genre devices. Blood, guts, and special effects are kept to a minimum, and even romantic sub-plots involving the film’s leading lady, Oscar-nominated actress Laura Linney, are completely omitted.

Sound boring? Don't fret - Exorcism of Emily Rose provides heartily for those looking for an end-of-the-summer thrill-ride. And for those seeking a smart, thought-provoking film, Emily Rose also fits the bill.

The film starts off rather quickly, as we find Emily already dead in her parents’ home leaving Father Richard Moore (Tom Wilkinson), who had previously performed an exorcism on Emily, on trial for negligent homicide. Moore refuses a plea bargain that would cut his time to a mere half-year in jail, insisting that he is not afraid of jail, but that he wants Emily's story to be told. Father Moore's lawyer, the sassy Erin Bruner (Linney), promises she will do everything in her power to free Father Moore.

The strident Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott), a devout Methodist, leads the prosecution for the case. Ethan is chosen for his of godliness outside of the courtroom (Sunday-school teacher, choir practice, etc.) and viciousness inside of the courtroom – a combination Thomas’ firm finds necessary for prosecuting a "holy man."

Thomas fires the prosecution's opening salvo, stating that Emily suffered from epilepsy, psychosis, and later, a form of epileptic psychosis. The burden of guilt is on Father Moore, Thomas maintains, as Moore had asked Emily to stop taking her prescribed medication – a powerful anti-hallucinogenic drug called Gambutrol.

Bruner's case, outclassed by the prosecution's ceaseless medical evidence, turns to an unorthodox and unproven strategy – to prove, with some degree of credibility, that Emily did suffer from a demonic and spiritual possession, and that Father Moore did everything in his power and ability to save her.

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The interaction between Linney and Wilkinson in the film is fantastic, as Bruner’s wavering agnosticism is slowly broken down by Father Moore’s rock-solid faith. Linney’s performance as Bruner is particularly spectacular, as she maintains sincerity towards Moore (who is somewhat forceful in his dealings with her) without fully accepting the priest’s beliefs.

While never fully leaving Bruner, the attorney’s disbelief in the spiritual realm continues to erode until the end of the trial, where Bruner poses the jury with the question: "is the physical world merely fact, or are there supernatural powers at work?"

Taking care not to alienate movie patrons with an overly evangelistic film, Emily Rose couples its true-story element with a scientific court-room setting to carefully balance the arguments within the film, inviting audience members to draw their own conclusions on the questions raised by the film.

But while not preached through the script, the Christian foundation of the film’s director/screenwriter, Scott Derrickson, shines through in the film’s faith-filled characters – something believers will find to be quite refreshing. One noteworthy example is found in Emily’s father, Nathaniel Rose (Andrew Wheeler), who, despite having experienced the devastating loss of his daughter, maintains an absolute and sincere faith in Father Moore, who Nathaniel had entrusted Emily's life to.

Despite the bulk of the movie taking place in the courtroom, Emily Rose contains plenty of spine-tingling scenes of possession, most of which are seen in flashbacks throughout the trial. Carpenter, whose body and face are seen shockingly contorted (much of which was done without the aid of special effects), gives a vivid depiction of the ravages of demon-possession, leaving the audience gasping for breath.

But whether or not you like scary movies or have questions about spirituality, one thing that everyone will be able to enjoy is the film’s integrity as revealed in its quality acting performances and carefully crafted storyline. Gratuitous “eye-candy” is nowhere to be found in Emily Rose, stripping the film down to its bare essentials, which leaves only what you wanted to see in the first place – a great movie.

 

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