Horror review: The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The-Exorcism-of-Emily-Rose-Jennifer-Carpenter

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, SEPT. 15, 2005

All those shocking images in the TV trailer for The Exorcism of Emily Rose had me thinking: “Cool! Maybe someone’s finally made a worthy demonic-possession flick to rival The Exorcist.” Then I ran into veteran Georgia¬†Straight movie guy Ian Caddell, and he pooped all over my party.

“It’s a courtroom drama!” he revealed, knowing damn well that my years as a Fangoria correspondent would not make that welcome news. Here I was all psyched up about a Linda Blair-style head-spinning, puke-spewing, crucifix-fucking, hell-raising good time, and he’s talking Kramer vs. Kramer!

But I went to the movie anyway, mainly because of that part in the trailer where a guy’s face morphs into pure evil and black stuff starts spidering from his eyes.

Jennifer Carpenter-a stage actor whose recent film “credits” include the Wayans brothers’ White Chicks and a direct-to-video Judd Nelson thriller-plays the doomed Emily Rose, a sheltered rural teenager who we first see jumping for joy after learning that she’s won a college scholarship. Her freshman experience isn’t a 24-hour keg party, though; the poor girl soon finds herself in the grip of six different demons-including bigshot Lucifer-which means there’s a whole lotta screeching, writhing, and convulsing goin’ on.

The flexible Carpenter does a show-stealing job with her twisted contortions, saving a lot of cash for the makeup and special-effects departments.

Unfortunately, the freaky possession footage is shown only in flashbacks; most of the film-which was “inspired by true events”-takes place in a courtroom, where Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson) is on trial for negligent homicide in Rose’s exorcism death. Laura Linney plays an agnostic defence lawyer who takes his case for purely selfish reasons, then gets predictably caught up in that whole theology thing, leading to interminable diatribes about science versus religion.

Both Linney and Wilkinson are Oscar nominees-for their respective work in You Can Count On Me and In the Bedroom-but Linney’s performance doesn’t ring true. She doesn’t get much help from the pedestrian screenplay, penned by first-time director Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman, who’d previously fused their questionable talents on the slasher sequel Urban Legends: Final Cut and the virtually unseen Hellraiser: Inferno.

A prime example of their writing prowess comes from Emily’s grieving boyfriend: “I never knew how dead I was until I met her.”

Director of photography Tom Stern had served as cinematographer on the Oscar-sweeping Million Dollar Baby, but the overall look of Exorcism is one of a bland TV movie. It was shot on the cheap in Vancouver, but its main courtroom setting rarely allows for the frivolous thrill of spotting local landmarks. The main giveaways that it was a Lotusland production are the cameos, as TV reporters, by broadcasters Joanna Piros, Darrin Maharaj, and Clay St. Thomas.

Hey, isn’t that last guy just a JRfm morning mouth? Christ–I mean, Satan–they couldn’t even get that right!

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