"The Exorcism of Emily Rose" A Review
(c) Shannon Parsons 2005

Trust me- I was scared to see this film. But curiosity got the best of myself and two friends and we decided to brave it together one night. I am very glad we did.

In the wrong hands, this film could have been just another gruesome, overdone screamfest, but thanks to the craftsmanship of director Scott Derrickson and main players Laura Linney, Jennifer Carpenter and Tim Wilkinson, this real life nightmare was pulled off with class and intelligence.

Now, being the super-sleuth I am (or rather fancy myself to be), I did a little digging after seeing the film to find out just how true to life it was. What I discovered was that it is based on the life of Anneliese Michel, a young German girl, whose life irrevocably changed one day in 1968 when she became possessed by demons. At least this is what she and many others believed to be the case. The events that happen to her during the next eight years of her life are what the makers of The Exorcism of Emily Rose base the film on. The story finds Anneliese's parents and priests on trial for negligent homicide after the exorcism and care they provided for her allegedly result in her death. I won't go into detail here about Anneliese's life, but you can check her story out for yourself here.

In a television interview, Laura Linney said that she would only agree to do this film if Jennifer Carpenter (a young, relatively unknown actress with whom she did some Broadway) was cast as Emily. And was she on the money! Carpenter apparently did most of her own stunts-none the least of which included twisting and contorting her body into grotesque convulsions during her most tormented possession moments. As a result of her talents, the filmmakers had to use very few special effects which makes the film look shockingly real.

Linney herself gives a great performance as Erin Bruner, the defense lawyer for Father Moore (played by the ever-amazing Wilkinson). She initially takes the high profile case to increase her chances of making partner in her firm, but she ends up getting a little more than she bargained for. A self-proclaimed skeptic, she encounters some strange occurrences in her life during the trial which cause her to question her beliefs.

Wilkinson is equally convincing in the role of Father Moore- a man completely steadfast in the defense of his actions. But, more important to him than his own defense, is getting Emily's message out to the world- a message that I won't reveal here.

Now, the possession and the scenes that depict it were terrifying, but what I found almost equally terrifying were the things that start happening to the people involved in the trial. Without giving too much away, it suffices to say that in one scene Father Moore warns Erin that there are dark forces surrounding the case and that she needs to be careful. When she replies that she doesn't believe in demons, he says "it doesn't matter whether you believe in them or not, they exist".

The "faith vs. science" trial proceeds with equally convincing arguments put forth by both the defense and the prosecution. Was Emily Rose truly possessed by six demons or was she an "epileptic schizophrenic" who should never have been taken off her anti- psychotic meds? Is the Church responsible for her death based on the choices they made, despite the fact that Emily and her parents chose to place her in its care? And for a refreshing change, Hollywood leaves us to draw our own conclusions about what happened to Emily, instead of forcing us in one direction.

Going home to my darkened apartment that night was a challenge. And when I awoke in the middle of the night, I very reluctantly and very slowly turned my head toward my alarm clock to see what time it was. But you will have to brave the film and figure that one out for yourself....


This page was created October 27, 2005.