The Exorcism of Emily Rose will definitely give you the creeps. The mix of courtroom drama and horrific imagery is a welcome change from the norm, but the drama soon begins to wear thin amidst an excellent performance by Jennifer Carpenter as the fated Emily Rose. What exactly do I mean? Well, suffice to say, Jennifer Carpenter just might have a little demon in her… She is that convincing.
Based on the story of Anneliese Michel dating all the way back to 1968 [read here] we find ourselves immediately trapped in a battle of science and faith as Father Richard Moore (Tom Wilkinsen) is on trial for contributing to the death of Emily Rose (Carpenter) due to the exorcism he performed on the possessed young lady, and I don’t care what the prosecution says… this chick was possessed.
The story is laid out before the audience in the opening minutes of the film as Emily Rose is already dead and the trial is set to begin. Defending Father Moore is defense attorney Erin Bruner (Laura Linney) whose main goal is to achieve partner status in her law firm, and this high profile case backed by the Archdiocese is just the case to do it. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a courtroom drama first and horror story second as the film lays out its storytelling style inside of the first 15 minutes when we get our first flashback as told through witness testimony.
This technique runs into a problem only due to the fact that the flashbacks are so convincing in telling the tale. Carpenter is absolutely amazing as the possessed Emily Rose and often times it seems as if you are watching an honest to God possessed girl on screen among a group of actors that have no idea what to do… Like I said before, she is that good, just wait until the barn scene and you’ll see. All this said, the courtroom drama doesn’t even seem like drama at all in comparison, and a lot of this falls on the shoulders of Campbell Scott who is playing prosecuting attorney Ethan Thomas.
Scott has very little screen presence if any at all. He is by no means convincing as a lawyer and would be better fit for daytime soaps than a feature film. On top of that, the courtroom dialogue is far too flat to evoke any emotion from the audience or even the actors for that matter. It is all to straight forward and matter of fact to be feature film dialogue. There aren’t any “You can’t handle the truth!” moments nor a flitter of energy in the stale bowels of lady law.
Co-writer/director Scott Derrickson has had a minuscule career to this point as Emily Rose is certainly has largest movie to date and it might be that fact that is the cause for the slow pacing of this feature at times. Derrickson certainly performed well when it came to his scenes of Emily’s demise but when it comes to the courts the drama was sucked out of this feature.
On a whole The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a good film and worth your coin in the theaters, but I can’t see this one playing well over time. While Carpenter’s performance reminds us of Linda Blair’s performance in the 1973 horror classic The Exorcist, that is minus the obscene behavior and language, this film overall just doesn’t match the earlier success, but it does so something if I am willing to draw the comparison.