A review of “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for violence, intensity and disturbing images

Run Time: 1 hour, 44 minutes

 

 

This “Exorcist” for a new generation is a gritty fright-fest that saw me curled into a fetal position for most of its running time.

Emily Rose (relative newcomer Jennifer Carpenter) is a 19-year old college freshman who inexplicably becomes possessed by a vicious demonic presence. Desperate to save their terrorized daughter, Emily’s parents abandon her prescribed medical treatment in favor of a religious exorcism.

When Emily dies at the hands of parish priest Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson) he is summarily charged with negligent homicide and sent to prison. Enter hotshot legal beagle cum agnostic Erin Bruner (Laura Linney) who takes the case while angling for a senior partnership. Little does Erin know that the forces of darkness will try to keep her from the light. (Maestro, strike up the Twilight Zone)

Told in flashback cut with the present-day trial, “Emily” speaks to the impassioned conflict between religion and law, church and medicine. Emily’s slow progression towards a ghastly madness lies in stark contrast to the no-nonsense courtroom setting, a blessed relief from the gruesome bone-twisting horrors of a sadistic presence within. 

The most banal clichés (Star witness killed in a terrible accident! Creaky doors sliding open without benefit of human touch!) are nevertheless fraught with a low-level terror. I didn’t know that 3am was the demonic witching hour but was keenly aware of it for several nights thereafter when I woke in the night and couldn’t bring myself to check the clock.

In the grand tradition of “Rosemary’s Baby” and the aforementioned “Exorcist”, “Emily” is psychologically and emotionally draining when it counts. Carpenter offers up an evocative performance; fear and confusion and satanic hatred spewing from every pore. Climax is a welcome relief from the cookie-cutter formulas of which I’ve grown weary.