As I’ve stated before, you gotta bring something different to the table in order for your horror film to pique my interest. Stereotypical slashers bore me to tears. Found footage ‘Paranormal Witch Projects’ are just poorly shot films with the same cheap scares as a haunted house visit at Halloween Horror Nights. And torture porn. Don’t get me started on torture porn. You want to scare me to my core? Give me a film that grounds the supernatural element you are playing with in reality. Write characters that aren’t “Lets go investigate” idiots that I can’t relate to, let alone, root for. And an occasional loom of the prince of darkness doesn’t hurt either. The Exorcist was that for me. It was the benchmark for the best the horror genre had to to offer. I’d swat away any comers trying to claim supremacy over it like an old man asked to indulge in some newfangled fad. The Exorcism Of Emily Rose is the newfangled fad the grandson of that old man forces him to try or else he’ll ship him away to a home. Somewhere an AARP member just sh*t their pants…um…uncharacteristically.
Now films love to slap the “Based On A True Story” label on their films. Mainly, for the reason I stated before. Ground your film in reality and it immediately becomes much more interesting. Sometimes, however, it only serves as an unnecessary distraction. You get so wrapped up in if it is actually true or not. Especially, the more fantastical the film gets. The Coens caught some flack for saying Fargo was based on a true story when it wasn’t. The claim distracted critics from the point of how great a film it was. You can make your film feel real without reassuring us. But I digress. The Exorcism Of Emily Rose is a story loosely…and I mean loosely based on the real life exorcism of German born, Anneliese Michel. See? I just did it.
The one thing I really liked about The Exorcism Of Emily Rose is that it is a postmortem. Whatever the traumatic event that happened to this girl has already happened by the start of this film. We learn about the specifics mainly through flashbacks and testimonials. This, to me, puts the audience in the mind of the skeptic. As the film goes on we are put in the position of either being doubtful of what we’re told happened or convinced. Because make no mistake, this is a film about belief. An interesting approach to the material that had the potential to make an interesting film. But what was the operative word I just used? It was ‘had’. This film’s INDELICATE, rushed, stomping through the material makes it a marginal effort at best. A film of this ilk is more effective when handled with more subtlety. Director Scott Derrickson actually shoots the one exorcism scene in this film more like an action scene, tossing all intensity out the window…literally.
Another miscalculation The Exorcism Of Emily Rose has is the numerous divergences from what makes it good. The film is mostly set in a courtroom, pouring over the facts of what actually happened during the exorcism. Was this young girl taken over by demons or did her priest criminally harm her? However, it tries to slide in some suspense with a pointless subplot involving star Laura Linney being accosted by dark forces. It feels totally out of place and stops whatever momentum the film has built up. I am convinced these scenes were jammed in because of studio pressure for more jump scares and exciting moments. You see, studios hear subtlety and automatically think boring. Their low respect for the audiences they constantly pander to usually short circuits modern horror films.
Jennifer Carpenter, from Dexter fame, does most of the heavy lifting in this film. Now, I won’t go into comparisons of scary between her in Linda Blair. However, I will say I was more impressed by Carpenter’s terrified Emily than her possessed one. Tom Wilkinson is great as usual, though underused. Laura Linney is nothing special but is still solid. The only really poor performance that sticks out to me is given by Campbell Scott. I’ve seen him before on the television show Royal Pains and a short bit as Peter Parker’s dad in….(Rolling Eyes With A Wanking Motion)…The Amazing Spider-Man. In those parts, his super stoic delivery, nature, and overall presence didn’t particularly bother me because they’re small. In this film, Campbell Scott is tasked with carrying a significant part of the film. He is the voice of the doubters. He is, in actuality, the secondary villain of the film. And he has about as much personality as a creaky ironing board. A great character actor like Victor Garber or John Noble could have put some heft to that part. Instead, we’re left with a walking talking popsicle stick.
So, yes. I tried another one of these fads. But after watching The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, it might have been a better choice to just get shipped to the home. If the power of Christ compels you…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.