“The Exorcism of Emily Rose” is based on a true story and is not really about the exorcism of Emily Rose but rather about the trial of a priest (Wilkinson) who got charged for negligent homicide not because of the performed exorcism but because he advised a young girl Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter) to stop taking a medicine she didn’t want to take in the first place.
OK, so there is an exorcism happening somewhere along the lines but it doesn’t make the movie, most of the time is spent in the court room listening to prosecutor Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott), a man of faith and fact and his monotonous and lackluster speeches.
The whole argumentation of both sides leaves much to be desired and is nothing but circumstantial and in the defender’s case not even that but solely based on faith and that with the defendant being an agnostic; an odd concept inside a courtroom. Hence the verdict in the end is just as odd and basically the only possible one.
The events that lead to Emily’s death are narrated in flashbacks throughout the trial and are the horror part of the movie, although it is rather horror building on suspense than on effects. It does that well enough to keep it entertaining, yet it is nowhere as intense as it could be.
Twisting your ankles and speaking in foreign tongues with dilated pupils are your basic ingredients for a demonic possession. What I did not know is that Tibetan monks can speak/sing with “two voices” at the same time. The nonsense we get from the movie about a second set of vocal cords is another typical “fact” during the whole trial. The actual technique is to have the vocal cords vibrate in two different frequencies at the same time and is not exclusive to Tibetan monks.
The whole movie is or wants to be about faith and not about facts, for Emily it is about proving that God isn’t dead by showing them the devil and judging from the epilogue in the credits it has succeeded at least in part. The real “Emily’s” grave has become an unofficial holy shrine and I wager this movie may even add some popularity to it.
The acting is good enough but nothing to write home about. Carpenter’s part consists mainly of screaming in make-up and Wilkinson basically just has to read out Emily’s letter without starting to cry, which he barely manages. There are also the two attorneys (Laura Linney, Campbell Scott) who unfortunately have no chemistry at all and it is as if you watch two separate movies when you listen to them.
How then is this a movie of faith and of horror? Besides Emily being a devout Christian making weird sounds, eating spiders, talking in Aramaic we also get the ominous black hooded figure, objects moving by themselves after 3am and yes, there is the one who dwells within but alas, we do not get to see him/it, instead we get to see black stuff coming out of the eyes and mouths of passersby.
Maybe you shouldn’t do drugs that mess with the brain? Or maybe there are demons out there? Difficult decisions so we better be on the safe side: Guilty in both instances. What? Let me boil the movie down to one single line of code for you and you then have to decide for yourself what you want to believe:
if Demons == true then GOD > 0
In all fairness I have to say that it is a generally well made movie as far as the craftsmanship is concerned. The feel of a “Commercial for God” remains.