The Exorcism of Emily Rose
Based on a true account of an unsuccessful exorcism, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a cross between Miracle on 34th Street and The Exorcist. I know that sounds crazy, but it is, and I loved the movie.
Not so much an account of a possession, although we do see the progression of it in flashbacks told from different friends and family’s points of view, this story is more about the aftermath of an exorcism gone wrong resulting in the death of nineteen-year-old Emily Rose. Father Richard Moore, the priest who performed the exorcism is on trial for negligent homicide. While the church wants him to plead guilty so the whole “embarrassing” incident can be swept under the rug, he refuses because he wants to tell Emily’s story.
What I love about this movie is not the horror elements that are for the most part your typical demonic possession tropes, but the character study of those directly involved in the trial of the priest. The defense attorney played by Laura Linney (a favorite actress of mine), is an agnostic looking to advance her career while the prosecutor is a church-going catholic selected specifically for that reason. Father Moore, of course, will lose his position in the church should he choose to go against the Arch Diocese request that he take a plea deal. Each of the major players in this trial must choose between their career and their belief system.
It is thought provoking to see the agnostic come to sympathize with her client’s story so much that she puts her opportunity for partnership and her reputation on the line to prove that Emily was in fact possessed and the exorcism was her only hope. What I did not think was necessary, however, was the “dark forces” surrounding her and the priest during this trial. What exactly was the purpose of it? Wouldn’t the demonic forces want them both to make fools of themselves in a court where it was highly unlikely their defense would be taken seriously? And the story of the found locket with Linney’s character’s initials on it made little sense to the overall plot. In was more distracting than anything. I kept waiting for it to come back into play, to find out what the connection was, but apparently finding it in the snow while contemplating the trial itself was simply a sign from a god she wasn’t sure she believed in? It was unnecessary.
As an agnostic myself who has very strong opinions about organized religion. I found myself most disgusted but not at all surprised with the behavior of the prosecutor and the Arch Diocese. Those who profess to be believers in both heaven and hell are either ashamed of their own beliefs such that they want to keep it hidden (which I believe is the opposite of what a good Christian is supposed to do) or almost disdainful of it to the point that the prosecutor actually became belligerent with the priest and called the idea of demonic possession “silly”.
I found this movie to be more of a statement on organized religion, spirituality, and the right to an individual’s practice of their belief system than a horror film. Still I enjoyed it as a philosophical, discussion provoking film with some occasional horror elements. My biggest and probably most nit-picky complaint was in the choice of Jennifer Carpenter as Emily Rose. It was hard to believe she was a nineteen-year-old girl. She looked way too old for the part and while this film was released a year before the series Dexter began, I couldn’t get the foul-mouthed Deb Morgan out of my head when I watch it.
All in all, I loved the movie as a realistic take on exorcism and the public’s view on it more so than a horror film.