The summer movie season has officially come to a close with The Exorcism of Emily Rose being the fall’s first pleasant surprise. Scary, intense, smart and witty are all words that describe the film and what has been sorely missing from the majority of mainstream movies released in the past few months. Taking a subject made notorious by 1973’s The Exorcist – arguably the scariest film ever – The Exorcism of Emily Rose presents similar themes with more suspenseful and grave results.
Emily Rose’s story unfolds in the court of public opinion as fact vs. faith drives the trial of Father Moore. What makes The Exorcism of Emily Rose distinct from other films dealing with the supernatural is that it approaches the matter from the perspective of a nonbeliever.
The possession happens in bits, as the tale of Emily’s demonic invasion is told through medical and eyewitness accounts. Laura Linney is captivating as the agnostic lawyer chosen to defend the priest. Tom Wilkinson brings credibility to a genre that normally lacks in that department as the priest willing to risk everything, including his freedom, to tell Emily’s story. The most surprising performance comes from newcomer Jennifer Carpenter, who handles the title character with the electricity of a seasoned thespian.
A malnourished, bruised Emily is discovered dead in her bedroom, and Father Moore (Wilkinson) is arrested from criminal negligence that directly led to her death. The prosecutor sets out to prove that Emily was merely epileptic which rapidly progresses with serious psychotic tendencies.
The Rose family refuses to testify against Father Moore. The family believed strongly that Emily was more than sick and that he did everything in his power to save their daughter. Erin Bruner (Linney), who recently got a murderer acquitted, is assigned to handle the case of a bizarre ritual gone wrong.
The trial soon becomes a media spectacle as faith, belief and God go up against a case built solely on facts.
Special effects and sounds add to the atmosphere of the movie. The Exorcism of Emily Rose may be a PG-13 gore-lite flick, but what it lacks in blood and guts is made up for with its eerie setting. The film successfully builds suspense, despite quite a few obvious shockers, and keeps the audience engaged.
Unlike recent exorcism duds such as The Exorcist: The Beginning and Dominion: A Prequel to the Exorcist, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a beautifully executed movie with a sharp, intelligent script – an exception in the genre. While there are no crucifixes entering private orifices of her body, no peeing on the expensive rug and no naughty language, it makes up for the lack of powerful imagery by leaving the moviegoers guessing as to what’s next.
Linney, Wilkinson, Carpenter and their supporting cast of unknowns keep the movie flowing without losing interest.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose is the first sign of brain activity in a genre gone dead with remakes, mindless sequels and cliche-ridden fright flicks.
Horror, PG-13, Running time: 114 min.