The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
By: Trist Jones on March 23, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Sony (Australia). Region 2, 4, & 5, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, Italian DD 5.1. English, Italian, Dutch, Hindi Subtitles. 117 minutes
The Movie
Director: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Campbell Scott, Jennifer Carpenter
Colm Feore, JR Bourne
Screenplay: Paul Harris Boardman, Scott Derrickson
Country: USA
I remember being slightly dubious about this one when Sony began spinning it's promo wheel. It looked as though it was heading towards the same territory as that terrible Timothy Dalton Exorcist rip-off went. Then I saw the first trailer… and I was interested. But then I saw the film…

The Exorcism of Emily Rose tells the 'loosely-based-on-true-events' story of Emily Rose, a 19 year old from a fairly low-income family who gets offered a scholarship to a major state college. After settling in, she is tormented by a variety of manifestations, and the audience is prompted to question whether it's all in her head, or if something far more sinister is going on?

Now, any horror fan that hasn't seen this one yet really does need to take heed of the warnings. This is a court room drama. There are horror sequences sprinkled throughout that really are masterfully executed (aside from one in a barn that pushes the evil button a few too many times), but the majority of the film is centred on the court case that follows Emily's untimely death. And don't be fooled by the uncut labelling (or unrated in the US)! Often times this will imply that the film has had the scary bits made even scarier, or the gory bits gorier, but this is not the case here. With this one, Sony has very cleverly placed this tag on hoping to lure more horror fans, but actually, the uncut/unrated sequences were three minutes more of court hearings, and because they were never submitted for the American ratings, it effectively makes that release 'unrated' (even though it would get exactly the same rating).

The biggest problem with the film being a court room drama is that the dialogue is so melodramatic. If the dialogue weren't so poor, this film really could have been something great. The film has a great cast, Laura Linney (The Mothman Prophecies), Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins), Campbell Scott (The Spanish Prisoner) and Jennifer Carpenter, but the dialogue feels like something straight out of book, and far too dramatic. In the same stead, Linney's performance is really lazy in this one. Whether she is actually just being lazy or it's the script I can't be sure, but her performance in this is a far cry from her best. Wilkinson on the other hand can rest easy though, as his dialogue really is as clunky and as theatrical as it comes (especially in and around the court case). Jennifer Carpenter on the other hand is absolutely fantastic. All you have to do is see the 'possession' scenes and the 'medical' scenes (some of which she manages to make more disturbing than the demonic ones). She clearly has incredible control over her entire body to be able to do what she does in some of the flashbacks.

Another concern I had with the overall film was it's ambiguous stance on the whole religion/science situation. There are a lot of moments that are intended to have the viewer question their own beliefs, but then goes back on itself by saying "Yes, God exists!", and then goes into this cycle of "God exists, God doesn't exist", when for it to be truly effective, it should have stuck with one point of view band presented the arguments either side.
The image is as crisp as you'd expect from a Sony moneymaker (yes, it was, believe it or not). There's not a single blemish to be seen, but I found that the clarity in the picture on the DVD slightly robbed the film of its impact when the horror sequences came about. In the cinema, these sequences were all balanced perfectly in terms of brightness and contrast, and the projected image hid the obvious CGI work. It's almost like watching a Harryhausen film on an old VHS, and then seeing it on DVD. The effects blend so much better on the older, less clean image, and it's the same with the trip out scenes in this. That's not to say that they don't look good, they just looked a lot better and less obvious in the cinema.
The soundtrack, like the image, is about as good as it gets on DVD these days. It's Dolby 5.1, but it doesn't exactly exhaust your surround set-up. The score and soundscape are nowhere near as creepy as the film it will undoubtedly live in the constant shadow of (that film being the Exorcist). The audio commentary is actually worth a listening to if you can come to sitting through the film again.
Extra Features
The cover makes out like it has more than it really does. You get three ho-hum featurettes looking at the story itself, the casting and visual design of the film. They're okay for what they are (simple talking head pieces) but a huge number of lesser films have put together better. You get a deleted scene, that's right, just one, which the director pulled basically because of an awful shot involving a corridor through a peephole. It's good to hear through the commentary on it that he wasn't afraid to admit to poor shot choices, though.
The Verdict
In the end, it's going to be a divider. Genre enthusiasts are likely to shunt this one, shrugging it off as a bit of a snore-fest with a couple of good bits here and there, but the mainstream seem to have taken a liking to it, accepting it as a courtroom drama with some scary bits here and there. There're so many traps in the cover design and marketing for this one that it's likely to lure in the mainstreamers and genre lovers alike, but the genre lovers are going to come off second best. The "Scary as Hell" review on the front of the DVD leaves me wondering exactly what the reviewers idea of Hell is. I personally didn't mind it the first time I saw it in the cinemas, but that was with my expectation levels right down low. Now, having seen the DVD, I found the film to be boring and insanely amateurish on a script writing level. The horror scenes don't deliver the same punch they do in a darkened cinema, but I suppose those who missed it at the theatre won't really be affected by this. As a DVD, it's pretty poor, and a very clever exercise in marketing, but as a film, it's worth a look in, but don't expect the Exorcist, because you'll be sorely, sorely disappointed.
Movie Score
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