Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Movie Review: The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The Exorcism of Emily Rose isn't really a horror movie. It has some mildly disturbing scenes, but they are few and far between. It's no Exorcist.

However, it is a movie that makes you think. It concerns the case of a young girl who died after claiming to be possessed by demons, and the courtroom drama that followed. The majority of the movie deals with what happened in the courtroom, with flashbacks telling Emily's story. The central conflict is whether the priest who performed the Exorcism on Emily was responsible for her death or not. This is all based on a true story; the real "Emily Rose" (actually named Anneliese Michel) is pictured here.

Where I think the movie succeeds is that it doesn't take sides. It's never entirely clear whether what Emily is going through is genuinely due to demonic possession, or whether it is simply a medical condition. The horror movie elements come from seeing what characters experience, rather than an objective telling of what happened. Both sides in the courtroom battle provide strong arguments, and it is mostly left to the viewer to decide what's right.

Personally, I'm not sure. If Emily, her whole family, and her priest all genuinely believe that a demon is possessing her, and they were doing everything they could to cure her, should any of them be responsible for her death? Would the same controversy erupt if she died while undergoing conventional medical treatment?

The fact that the movie can give rise to deep questions like this makes it worth seeing. Just don't expect to be scared out of your mind, and it's an enjoyable, thought-provoking movie.


2 comments:

Harry J. Sachz said...

I read your website alot, and given that i agree with alot of your opinions, i rented this movie recently for me and my wife to watch... Thanks for the review, because otherwise we would have overlooked this movie completely... I will have to agree with you that it was a fascinating movie, with most of the cool stuff (read: details of the case) happening in a recount of personal experiences from both the priest and multiple eyewitnesses point of view... Plus, i have to admit that the scary stuff jostled me out of my chair a bit, and scared the living bejebus out of my wife... Anyhow, i disagree when you state that it takes a neutral stance... The movie was completely on the side of "religious affliction"... They constantly were referring to the time of 3:00 a.m. and the demonic anti-christian "witching hour" it represents [If you want to avoid possible revealed details of the movie - stop reading here]...

During this [witching hour] time is when the main character faced significant demonic intimidation... Coincidently during the trial, a perfectly sane psychiatrist dies after apparently seeing an evil apparition, and the accused priest sees (a reappearing) demon in his cell... Then there's the "I'm on the right path and everything ends up good in the end" story, and what's up with that judge?.. Every detail, statement and objection the prosecutor came up with, she shot down as if she was being paid to side with the defense... The fact that the case was seen in the eyes of the public as a 'draw' doesn't make the story neutral...

Granted that there were a few medical explanations given for her illness, the supernatural aspect made for a great movie... If they had added more medical details and quoted exact text from the DSM, i would have fallen asleep hours ago; but scaring the holy hell out of people sells better... [as i'm typing this, the pilot of the show House is on - where the patient experienced possession-like symptoms in the intro of the show... i just thought that was an odd coincidence]...

Anyhow, thanks for the review... Perhaps next we'll give Serenity a go...

Phronk said...

Hey Sachz. I'm glad you enjoyed the movie. I guess you are right...if you have to pick a side, the movie goes with the supernatural position of the defense. The most revealing examples are what the lawyer experiences (e.g. the door, the tape recorder) which seem to be objective events that happen to occur at 3:00am, and are hard to explain as hallucinations. Same with the doctor guy getting smooshed.

But I guess I was expecting it to be COMPLETELY one-sided, and that it wasn't. It's still possible that those things were coincidences and that the demonic stuff was pure hallucination. Although the prosecution lawyer was portrayed as kinda a jerk, I thought his arguments were quite good and the jury made the right decision based on the evidence. And at least to me, it brought up questions about the law, morality, religion, and the relationships between them, without shoving a particular opinion down the viewer's throat.

House seems like a great show from the few episodes I've seen...weird that the possession episode would come on when you were writing about possession though. It must be demonic intervention.

If you're gonna give Serenity a go, I'd recommend watching the show (Firefly) first. It's not necessary to understand what's going on or anything, but it gives more detail in the background of the world and characters before the movie. Hope you like it/them!