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"What big hands you have ..."

The Exorcism of Emily Rose
(Hollywood remake or sequel, or film based on a comic book, book, play or video game # 48, since January 1st, 2005. Click for full list of Hollywood's lack of original ideas.)
Review written by: Alex Sandell

When Christian heavy metal music made it big, I asked myself, "What's next, Christian horror movies?"  It took 20 years, but Christian Horror has arrived, cleverly disguised in the advertisements to look like another simple rip-off of The Ring.  You'd never know it by the ads, but this is faith-based filmmaking and one of the most manipulative mainstream movies ever put on screen.  If you go in expecting a Catholic Recruitment film, you'll leave satisfied, because that's just what you'll get.  If you go in expecting a horror movie, you'll leave the theater utterly disappointed. 

The "scares" in this movie consist of a character loudly kicking open a stall-door in a bathroom, causing a jolting sound-effect to bang its way out of the theater's surround sound speakers.  A cat jumps on a table.  Pigeons loudly leave the ground and fly away.  That sort of thing.  Scary stuff.  The movie doesn't even succeed at what it's trying to do:  Turn the faithless into Body of Christ chompin' Catholics.

Scott Derrickson isn't a competent enough screenwriter or director to cause anyone to convert to anything, other than refund-getters.  I've now endured 4 of his films (Hellraiser: Inferno, Urban Legends: Final Cut, Land of Plenty and The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and can say, based on those, that the best he's ever gotten is really mediocre, with Hellraiser InfernoUrban Legends: Final Cut and Land of Plenty are awful.  He does deserve credit for using his small amount of talent to think big.  Not only is this a wanna-be horror film and the cinematic equivalent of a Jehovah's Witness knocking on your door -- the newest issue of Awake! magazine in-hand -- it's also a generic courtroom drama. 

As Derrickson himself may exclaim, "My God!" 

Like Inherit the Wind, if it was played up as a good thing that the court ruled against the teaching of Evolution, Derrickson puts the facts up against possibilities and strongly favors the possibilities.  The movie pretends to be unbiased to begin with, but you quickly see it devolving into an Agnostic/Atheist bashing episode of The 700 Club.  Erin Bruner (Laura Linney) is an Agnostic who decides to defend Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson) over the death of Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter -- who does a commendable job), not because she believes, but because she sees it as a way to get her name on the door at the firm she works for (those Agnostics are only in it for themselves!).

Father Moore is charged with negligent homicide, after a malnourished, badly bruised Emily Rose is found dead.  The Priest told Emily that she should stop taking her epilepsy medicine, because she didn't have seizures, but rather demons.  Emily then went into a state of status-epilepticus (a continuing seizure) and died. 

Before Emily's death, Father Moore performed an exorcism on the young girl.  It didn't work.  Probably because she suffered from epilepsy, and exorcism isn't the first treatment recommended for the control of tonic-clonic seizures.  Still, Father Moore was making some progress -- at least he didn't burn her at the stake for being a witch. 

The neurologists and doctors in this film are portrayed as know-it-alls without a shred of compassion or understanding (which does describe plenty of doctors, but that's neither here nor there).  The lawyer for the Prosecution is made to look like a hypocritical ass.  Father Moore is meant to look saintly and Erin Bruner, through a series of visits by dark forces at 3 in the morning (if you believe these countless movies where the clock stops at a certain time and frightening things happen, you would think that ghosts and demons are the most punctual of entities), comes to believe that Emily Rose could have been possessed.

The usually excellent Laura Linney is forced to spit out some of the worst dialogue written, this side of George Lucas.  The equally talented Tom Wilkinson is reduced to a talking fortune cookie in a Priest's uniform.  Worst of all, the message is made absolutely black and white.  By the time the closing credits roll, Derrickson has removed all grey areas from the film.  Emily was possessed and Emily was an angel and Emily did it all for the good of the society.  She did it to remind the faithless that if there's a devil, then there must also be a God.  Her burial site is now a makeshift shrine, we're told.  Emily did her job.  Onward, Christian Soldier!

If this movie was merely a bad film, it could be forgiven.  But it's an irresponsible film, and for that it should be ignored.  I am an epileptic.  As someone who's had plenty of experience with convulsing, I can pretty safely say that, based on what the movie shows, Emily Rose wasn't going through a demonic possession, but rather the auras one gets before falling into a seizure. 

The movie explains epilepsy away in a way that would be considered simplistic for a 10-year-old, "She kept having these episodes after being on her pills, Doctor! Doesn't this prove that she wasn't having seizures, but rather visits from demons?"  The film doesn't mention that all it really proved, if it was even true, is that she needed to be put on a different med, because the one she was on wasn't working.

Here is, based solely on what was shown in the movie, what I think the truth is about Emily Rose.  The girl was brought up Catholic by strict Catholic parents.  She was taught from the beginning that sex before marriage was a mortal sin.  She met a boy when she went away to college and presumably made love to him (the film shows that the devil first entered her shortly after meeting her boyfriend).  She went through a tremendous amount of stress and guilt and, already susceptible to epilepsy, fell into a seizure.  She then became convinced she was possessed due to her evil deeds.   Her beliefs were backed up by a whacky Priest who went against medical advice and took her off her meds, leading to her premature death. 

I don't think that Priest should be portrayed as a hero.  I don't think the audience should be led to believe that seizures are a sign of possession.  I can't find a justifiable reason for exploiting the memory of Emily Rose to make a highly fictionalized film.  There was a lot they could have done to make this movie right.  They could have dropped The Grudge rip-off sound-effects and ghost-like figures, gotten rid of the Christian bias, and then examined both sides of this story, leaving it up to the audience to decide.  No matter how many millions this movie makes, Emily Rose (if there really was an Emily Rose, which I somewhat doubt) is still dead.  Too bad the screenplay to this film didn't follow suit, before becoming a motion picture.

Agree, disagree, do you wish you had a better education?  Email Alex!

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