The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

The practice of exorcism by the Catholic church has a long and frightening history. I say frightening not because I believe that they have ever driven out a demon or evil spirit but because of the cult-like behavior and dangerous treatment of the mentally ill. The Church in general is very good at preying on the insecurities of the people it has put under its care. They either believe or have made the populace believe that demons can possess human beings and they are the only people who can help. They pray over the affected person in the same way that a Sheriff or Justice of the Peace carrying out an eviction. The Catholic Church has performed the rites of exorcism since at least 1614 when the first guidelines were published. In recent years, the process has become less used and the Catholic church requires the afflicted to visit a medical professional. Still, it is fun to play pretend in television and movies.

As a rule, supernatural cases are pretty much never tried in Court. If they are tried, the judge who writes the opinion usually has to tiptoe around the existence of the supernatural. Because court cases are used as precedent for later cases, the Court really has to watch what it says in order to not cause an avalanche of crazy cases down the line. I have actually written about two cases on this blog, one which involved a haunted house and one where a guy tried to sue the Devil. The first did not actually adjudicate any ghosts but instead dealt with “haunted” as a descriptor when buying and selling real estate. The second was very tongue and cheek and was dismissed pretty quickly. I keep trying to look for weird court cases involving elements of the supernatural but so far a lot of them just have figurative language relating to the supernatural.

The first thing I noticed was how good the acting is. The opening scene is so full of drama and tension with very little dialogue. It shows good acting and direction if a room full of actors can say so much without saying much. Laura Linney plays the defense attorney and she is sharp and interesting from the get-go. The priest is played by Tom Wilkinson who is immediately engaging and likable. The prosecutor is played by Campbell Scott, a straight-shooter who I liked for his intelligence and faith in the system. Jennifer Carpenter plays the titular character and she is so good at playing a sunny teen but also so terrified and terrifying. This movie really speaks to the versatility of Carpenter. Her physical acting is definitely amazing. There are a bunch of other actors used as witnesses that do a great job of filling in the story with their own personalities which makes things feel more real.

The special effects are really good in the movie. They get a lot of mileage out of simple practical effects and chaotic camera angles. Reported signs of possession are often things people might view as mundane coincidences at first. Then things start to get freakier. The movie also gets some use out of digital effects, mostly for jump scare moments. The digital effects are striking but definitely not poorly done in my opinion although they can be a tad over the top in places. The effects made a creepy story a lot scarier than I thought it would be. Part of this was also the score of the movie which has a lot of great string music with long sustained notes that make even non-scary scenes more tense. There are also tricks they use in the mixing of the movie that create an uncomfortable feeling.

Overall, I found the movie to be very interesting and I liked it. It is an adaptation of a real court case in Germany that was dramatized for American audiences. The courtroom scenes were fascinating to watch because the actors were just so good. There were definitely a lot of scary scenes and I was impressed with their take on possession versus what I have seen in other movies.

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