Based loosely on the 1976 case of a 24-year-old German girl who died during a church-sanctioned exorcism, Scott Derrickson's simultaneously sober and silly horror picture mixes courtroom theatrics with a spooky story of demonic possession. It begins at the weathered, isolated Rose farmhouse, where 19-year-old Emily (Jennifer Carpenter) has just died. Soon the family priest, Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson), is under arrest, charged with recklessly causing the 19-year-old college student's death during a ritual exorcism. Hard-drinking attorney Erin Bruner (Laura Linney), whose firm represents the archdiocese, takes on the high-profile case in a bid for senior partnership. She's warned that the powers that be are embarrassed and want it resolved quietly; if Moore won't take a deal, then under no circumstances is he to testify. But Father Moore wants nothing except to testify; he wants the world to hear Emily Rose's story. Everyone agrees that Emily's troubles began when she won a scholarship that took her from the familiar security of her deeply religious family and small community to a big-city college. After a terrifying late-night hallucination, Emily sought help at the campus clinic and began taking antiepilepsy medication. Tormented by demonic faces and seizures that contorted her limbs, she stopped eating and was brought home, where she ate bugs, screamed for hours on end, chewed on the walls, clawed at her own flesh and spoke in eerie voices. But was she really possessed, or was she a just a smart, sensitive, high-strung girl who was sick, lonely, frightened out of her wits and let down by those who could have helped her? Up against crackerjack prosecutor Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott), himself a deeply religious man, Erin scrambles to refute testimony that Emily's symptoms were produced by recognized medical maladies while battling her own increasingly jangled nerves. She wakes up at 3 am "the witching hour," Father Moore helpfully explains and menacing shadows and unnerving sounds leave her sleepless and exhausted. The stringy, angular Carpenter's frighteningly physical performance is the film's standout asset; her twitching and contortions are far more frightening than any whirlpool of CGI pyrotechnics. But the courtroom shenanigans drain the suspense from Emily's story and, frankly, they're not very convincing. It's hard not to sympathize with the frustrated Thomas when, challenged to cite grounds for his objection to the testimony of an expert in religious possession (Shohreh Aghdashloo), sputters, "How about silliness?"
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- Released: 2005
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Based loosely on the 1976 case of a 24-year-old German girl who died during a church-sanctioned exorcism, Scott Derrickson's simultaneously sober and silly horror picture mixes courtroom theatrics with a spooky story of demonic possession. It begins at the… (more)