The Exorcism of Emily Rose
What started as a solid B+ movie slowly turned to a mediocre C film. First off, it was not what I was expecting at all. I got to the theater and realized it's a PG-13 film; not R, as I'd thought and hoped. So now my expectations dropped a tiny bit. Second, it turns out that the film is less about the exorcism and more about the trial surrounding the aftermath of the exorcism. The preacher who performed the exorcism is on trial for the murder of Emily Rose and we see the story unfold as told by the witnesses who are brought to the stand. It ends up being more of a Perry Mason movie than a horror film. So be prepared for that.
Having said that, there are some pretty creepy parts. It works really well in the beginning as we see Emily become haunted, possessed and then increasingly tormented by the demons that dwell within her. It raises a few hairs on the back of the neck as the tension builds and we see Emily in her possessed states. Her body is contorted in unnatural ways, she speaks in a foreign tongue and continually sees the most horrific things before pysically causing damage to herself. But then we are whisked away back to the trial for cross examination and nothing is scary anymore.
The acting is fine. The producers couldn't have found a more creepy looking girl in Jennifer Carpenter. Laura Linney has filled this similar role before (Primal Fear) and excels again, and Tom Wilkinson is no slouch either; despite some cheesy dialogue he is forced to utter. But it doesn't matter. The movie tries to be two things at once, and that just doesn't work for me. I either want to be scared or I want to see a courtroom drama. Not both.
"The Exorcism of Emily Rose" inevitably will be compared with the masterpiece that is "The Exorcist." And in my opinion, it holds no candle. It tries many of the same angles as the latter, but puts the viewer in the seat of the jury to try to discover who or what is responsible for Emily's ultimate doom and make up your own mind if demonic posession is a reality.
Hollywood has also figured out another clever tactic in recent years. Since it is art, they can tell you it's based on real events (ala Blair Witch, Fargo, etc.), which is untrue but not considered false advertising. They do the same thing with "real" movie-goer interviews in their commercials. You know, the group of teenage girls all giggling and laughing saying it was the funniest thing they ever saw; or the couple walking out of the theater who say the film they just saw was wonderful and that they never felt so close to the characters, etc. They are all actors! Anyway, I'm getting off topic. Telling the audience that it is based on real events is supposed to make the film feel more real, thereby giving you an increased sense of fear. From what I've read, this film is hardly based on true events. [from hollywoodgothique.com] - Although the credits claim that the film is "based on a true story," there seems to be not much more than a bare fragment of truth in its script. Before the end credits, a title card tells us that the priest involved with the story cooperated with an author who wrote a book, which served as the basis for the film. Although screenwriters Derrickson and Boardman purchased the rights, neither the book nor the author is named. The book is in fact The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel, and the basic point of similarity between the actual events and the film story is that a young woman dies during an exorcism and the priest is put on trial for negligent homicide. In the actual case, it seems clear that the young woman's death did result from negligence (she died from malnutrtion after undergoing a series of exorcisms for months).
What bugged me the most is how unprepared I was for what the film was really about. The marketing for this film was all about how scary it is and that it is a straight up horror flick. It is not. It is courtroom drama, then a theological debate with science, then a horror flick. Hell, the actual exorcism in the film is only about 5 mintues long; if that. The ghosts that possess Emily are not the only things we are to fear. There are other "evil forces" that surround characters in the trial as well. These are scary moments, but take away from the story that is supposed to be being told. I think in this case, waiting a few months to rent this film by yourself and watching it in a darkened room would be a better choice. That way, when you think you can't take it anymore, the courtroom/lawyer discussion scenes will be a welcome relief.