I think ever since the Exorcist came out in 1973 the exorcism sub-genre has been struggling with few good films. Some of it’s due to the fact that every single exorcism film will be unfairly compared with the ’73 classic. Some of the other reasons are that they really were a bad film. Other reasons is devoted atheists will more than likely shoot the film down just because of the film’s subject matter and having heavily to do with the Christian faith. But they will be able to enjoy Paranormal Activity (another sort of demon type movie) because it’s not religiously heavy handed. So in short if you are one of those people who can’t enjoy the film because of your faith then don’t watch it, this is clearly not your type of film. Other people who regardless of their faith are willing to accept the film and watch it for what it then you will enjoy. For this is the smartest and by far the scariest exorcism film to come out since the original classic, and although it has some flaws like sometimes an inconsistency in tension, it is still a well crafted film.
The film is about a lawyer that takes the defense of the priest (in the wake of his trail) who performed an exorcism on a girl named Emily Rose.
The story is told in a much different way they many other films. This is a film told in flashbacks, everything is being told from a courtroom. So as witnesses testify we are given glimpses of what happen to this seemingly normal girl. The film fills the screen with so much symbolism that you can pick out throughout the film that clearly foreshadows where the scene is going. As we watch helplessly seeing this girl being tortured by the demons inside of her. Every time we flashback we have a feeling of dread that comes over us and will want to look away because we will be afraid of what we might see. And the film does this to great effect but we can feel a little safer again in the courtroom where we can let out a big gulp of air. But soon once we leave the courtroom we start feeling unsafe again as the priest named Father Moore warns the lawyer named Erin Burner that there are dark forces surrounding this trial. However when we are in the courtroom the film loses its air of tension. I won’t say the film is so scary that it’ll leave you shaking and make you unable to sleep but it does certainly frighten and unsettle you while you are watching it and certain scenes will stay with you. The script really is brilliant though, it is very smart and doesn’t treat the audience as idiots and wants to be taken seriously and certainly achieves that.
The scene of the exorcism is fantastic and well done. It’s a very memorable scene and everything strikes the right cord of horror. Even within the realms of a PG-13 rating the filmmakers get a lot of creepy and graphic in nature stuff filmed. From the cracking bones to the voice to Emily Rose chanting the numbers 1, 2, 3,4,5,6, this is a spine tingling scene.
But the film isn’t all about scares in the dark there are some deep meaningful conversations throughout the film. Most importantly between Father Moore and Erin Burner and it’s not always about the case they talk about some really good topics and the deepest of them are the questions of faith. These conversations will get you to think about yourself a little, however unlike a later Exorcism film called “The Rite” (2010), it never gets preachy.
However there are a few more critiques of the film. One of the things is that we never really got to know Emily Rose at all. It never goes into much detail over her past of personality other than just saying that she was a good girl that is going off to college. The film would have been that much better if we really got to know who this person is because we would be a lot more connected to the person that is possessed and would have made it more connectible. And also the problem with setting this as a flashback we already know what happens to the girl. This wouldn’t be a problem if we knew the girl better so it would make us helpless watch this girl suffers and know her faith and simply can’t do a thing about it. But instead it just goes here you the ending and here is right happened to her. The story is strong but it would have been so much stronger if we knew Emily Rose better.
Director/screenwriter Scott Derrickson fills the screen with good art direction and attention to detail. He shoots the film with great attention to detail and the symbolism is really good too. The 3:00 A.M. with forever frighten me and especially if I smell something burning. The face in the clouds and the rain it was done just right. Maybe he could have made the film longer for this would benefit the transformation of Emily Rose more but for what it is, he did a great job.
The musical score by Christopher Young is also really good. It gives a very haunting presence and is thrilling throughout. It’s not really memorable or a masterpiece but it still is very well done.
The acting is top notch too. Tom Wilkinson plays Father Moore perfectly and gives a fantastic performance like he always does. It should have been up for academy award consideration but unfortunately it wasn’t. Laura Linney gives a very good performance as the lawyer Erin Burner. Jennifer Carpenter was really good as Emily Rose. As is Campbell Scott and everyone else in the cast this cast and they deliver on all notes.
Will this film haunt you for nights to come? No it won’t, the film has a high amount of tension in the flashback that certainly will frighten and disturb you. The acting is excellent especially Tom Wilkinson’s amazing performance. Combine all of that with a tight and smart script you have a really great horror film. It has flaws that bog the film down but no one can deny that this is a well above average horror film.