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We rented The Exorcism of Emily Rose on Amazon, and while Bryce couldn’t seem to stay awake, I was reminded of one of my favorite possession movies ever made. This was a Patreon pick of the month, and they voted on it, so we reviewed it.
Synopsis of The Exorcism of Emily Rose
The Exorcism of Emily Rose is directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister) and is the story of a court case where The People are prosecuting Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson) for the negligent homicide of Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter). Good news for Father Moore, Erin Bruner (Laura Linney) is on the case.
As we are walked through the trial, we get glimpses into the hellish end of days that made up Emily’s life. She was a deeply devout catholic girl in a deeply devout catholic family, and that never seems to be a good combination in possession movies.
The defender of The People is Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott), and he makes the claims that Emily was epileptic and psychotic, which could have been treated medically.
Erin has to come to terms with her own lack of faith to depict this priest in the light of his intentions and the reality that the possession was real, and the exorcism was vital to save Emily from the devil.
Review of The Exorcism of Emily Rose
The Exorcism of Emily Rose is an interesting and well-executed movie that really floored me the first time I watched it several years after it’s 2005 release. I’ve seen it a handful of times since then, and it continues to be compelling to watch.
The visuals in this movie work best on the first go-around, so it didn’t have the same disturbing impact on me this time as it did my first viewing.
I appreciate the new twist on an old classic – being told from the perspective of the homicide case made it much less of a movie about possession and much more of a movie about faith and religion. The Defense attorney had her own brushes with the demonic during her trial, which gave the movie stakes in the present.
This movie respects the audience and shows a lot of restraint in favor of fewer terrifying moments. The result is that these very disturbing scenes have a heavier impact.
I’m a sucker for a well-made possession movie, and this is exactly that.
Spoilers for The Exorcism of Emily Rose
This starts with a great ambiance shot of a dreary farm-house in a mist-covered field. A medical examiner shows up to find Emily deceased, surrounded by her family, and in horrific condition. He can’t conclusively say that the cause of death is natural, which makes a great allusion, not only to murder but to the possibility of satanic possession.
The Religion/Science Dichotomy
The Exorcism of Emily Rose asks the interesting question of, “What is possession, real or explained away with mental health diagnoses?” I love the way this movie tackles that question. First, from the side of the Prosecution (science), then from the side of the Defense (religion).
Many times we will see Emily acting possessed, and horrible things will happen to her that appear to be because of the supernatural. For example, she will be out in the field in the throws of possession, and stigmata will appear on her hands. When viewed from the side of the Defense telling the account, it will appear as it the mark on her hands show up without any outside influence. When viewed from the side of the Prosecution, it shows that Emily grabs tightly onto a barbwire fence, producing the wounds in the palm of each hand.
I enjoy the way this movie walks the line between religion and science – never tainting the audience with a “true” fact one way or the other.
We only get to see bits and pieces of the actual exorcism of Emily, but what we do see is harrowing. The actual (real-life) exorcism of Emily Rose (a girl named Anneliese Michel) included 67 exorcism attempts.
One of the best parts of the movie is when we learn that Emily has not one, but six demons residing in her. I really can’t explain this and do it justice, so check out this clip:
As the trial draws to a close, we get to see the closing arguments made by both sides. The Prosecution makes the case that this poor girl died a horrible wasting death while in the care of Father Moore.
The Defense makes a great closing statement. If you scroll up to the top of this page and listen to our podcast episode, you will hear her whole closing statement at timestamp 1:02:54.
If you are in the mood for a possession movie, this is one of the best. It’s an interesting movie told from a unique perspective and it has aged quite well. The only other possession movie we have reviewed as of the release of this review is The Devil’s Doorway, and Emily Rose is a much better choice.
Dustin Goebel says
My high school’s locker room HAD to be haunted by demons.