Director – Scott Derrickson
Cast – Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Campbell Scott, Jennifer Carpenter, Colm Feore, Joshua Close, Kenneth Welsh
Release Year – 2005
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Based on the “true events” that happened to the young German girl, Anneliese Michel, who’s parents and two priests were successfully convicted of manslaughter for her death during an exorcism, this flick happens to be one of the more “factual” of the “true event” horror flicks that have plagued movie screens for years. This flick effectively combines both elements of “horror” and “law” in what I like to refer as “the horror version of Law & Order”, and if you know me…you know that I love both “horror” and “law”. Hehe.
The film follows actress Laura Linney as up-and-coming defense attorney Erin Bruner, who has been given the task of defending Father Moore(Tom Wilkinson), a priest on trial for the “negligent” death of a young girl named Emily Rose whom apparently died as a result of his exorcisms. Lead prosecutor Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott) is our with a vengeance to send Father Moore to prison, but the modest Father Moore has no fear of prison, and simply wants to tell Emily Rose’s story, as a staple to those who do not “believe”.
I really enjoyed this film and as I mentioned earlier…this flick effectively combines to different genres(horror and law) thanks to co-writer/director Scott Derrickson’s management of these two elements. The film takes place in both the past and present, keeping the viewer up to date with Father Moore’s trial and using the flashback scenes to paint the story of what happened to poor Emily. I also really enjoyed the fact that this film opens the door to whether or not “God” and “Faith” can be used in the courtroom, because how do you “prove” that a person is possessed by a demon when some of the symptoms fall directly under the diagnosis for multiple-personality disorder and/or schizophrenia? Exactly my point. Time after time we are given what seems to be definite proof that Emily is in fact “possessed”, only to be thrown in the opposite direction with new evidence that contradicts her “possession” scientifically. Genius huh? If you are into legal dramas…then this is a film for you, regardless of it’s horror elements.
How are the performances? Laura Linney does the “attorney” act pretty well, equally as well as her role as a prosecutor in the film Primal Fear(Edward Norton’s first film). Tom Wilkinson and Campbell Scott nail their roles as well, but I must say it is little-known actress(at the time of the film) Jennifer Carpenter who takes the film’s “Best Actor/Actress” award. Although nearly half of her dialogue comes in the form of blood-curling screams, Jennifer Carpenter really impressed me with her facial expression and aura in this film and debatably puts Linda Blair to shame. Haha! Judging from what we see Jennifer’s character go through, she must have gone through hell during the filming of this flick. Her body is put into all kinds of sick looking contortions(luckily she is double-jointed) during her possession scenes and her use of Latin and Archaic as the demon inside her “battles” Father Moore comes off effective and believable(not fake, like Christian Bale’s North Carolinian accent in Public Enemies).
The pacing for this film is pretty good as well, thanks in part to the back and forth action between past and present tense keeping you hooked on the story. When the “horror” action kicks in, it is pretty good and definitely enough to give chills to most horror buffs.
Overall, this is a fulfilling film that is not only interesting, but a break from the typical horror films we get from Hollywood nowadays.
– I listed this film as an “Honorable Mention” in my Top 50 Horror Movies of the Decade(31-40) post.