The Exorcism of Emily Rose (15)

Film

Thrillers

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Time Out says

Tue Nov 22 2005

A derivative and deeply reactionary tale of demonic possession, this strange mix of courtroom drama and shrieking metaphysical horror struck a chord with American audiences, chiming nicely with the anti-rationalist drivel spouted by fundamentalist Christians and proponents of so-called Intelligent Design. The scene in which Laura Linney’s agnostic attorney argues that facts have no place in a court of law, when questions of religious faith and belief in demons are at stake, is worthy of Orwell’s ‘1984’. Or, more topically, Bush’s America in 2005.

The facts, based extremely loosely on a documented case that occurred in Germany in the early ’70s, are simple: 19-year-old college student Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter) died during an exorcism performed by Catholic priest Richard Moore (Tom Wilkinson). Expert medical witnesses called by church-going prosecutor Ethan Thomas (Scott Campbell) assert that Emily suffered from a rare blend of epilepsy and psychosis, and that in failing to have her hospitalised Father Moore was guilty of ‘negligent homicide’. It falls to the priest’s ambitious, sceptical defence lawyer Erin Bruner (Laura Linney) to prove otherwise.

A series of would-be ‘Rashomon’-style flashbacks – in which Emily speaks in tongues and experiences vivid hallucinations and body-contorting seizures – are distressing but never illuminating. We have no sense of Emily as a human being; only as a ‘victim’ whose ambiguous symptoms and sad fate are argued over in the most abstract terms, be they religious or legal. Director and co-writer Scott Derrickson further undermines the script’s seeming seriousness by randomly drawing on other horror movies (‘The Exorcist’, ‘Carrie’ et al) and employing every generic trick in the book. Silly and insulting, yet dangerously seductive.
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