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Emily RoseThe Exorcism of Emily Rose on DVD

The concept of being possessed is one of the most frightening ideas imaginable. An evil force taking control of your body and doing uncomfortable things to it is not a pleasant thought!

In The Exorcism of Emily Rose (which is loosely based on a Scandinavian case, but not as “based on a true story” as you would hope for), a young woman (aptly, and conveniently, named Emily Rose) dies during an exorcism, and we watch the court proceedings that follow.

Don’t let that fool you, however. This is not simply a courtroom drama, but a courtroom drama mixed with the story of the poor girl.

Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson) was supposed to care for Emily during her trying time. After she died during the exorcism, he was charged with negligent homicide. The prosecutor, Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott) is a religious man, doing his best to do his job without letting his religious views get in the way. Yes, she may have been possessed, but either way Father Moore is responsible for her death.

On the other hand, Moore hires an agnostic defense attorney, Erin Burner (Laura Linney), hoping to get a purely unbiased opinion.


Father Moore tells us what he knows of Emily’s story - the sudden, seemingly random possession, her subsequent terrifying experiences, and ultimately her demise. Enough time is spent with her that this feels as much like a horror movie as a courtroom drama. And what she goes through during her “possession” is genuinely scary.

The film works well for two reasons. First of all, it merges the two genres so effectively that it never gets tiring or feels too long, and showcases the terror of being possessed. Second of all, despite religion playing such a large part, we’re never told what to think, which is very refreshing in today’s world. Even the characters, who have their own beliefs, don’t let their beliefs run their brains. This is as unbiased and two-sided as it could be without being a documentary. Many kudos to co-writer/director Scott Derrickson on that one.

Unfortunately, despite being such a well-made film, it has its flaws as well. For example, Erin is constantly being awakened by strange happenings at 3:00 a.m. (the witching hour). This is not only completely formulaic of horror movies, but completely uncalled for in this film. However, it’s also a pretty moot complaint for such an otherwise successful movie.

The part we’re unsure of is the ending. We can’t decide if it’s simply an easy way out (aka the most effective way to not offend anybody), or if it’s simply the perfect way to end the film. Judging from its other strengths, we’re inclined to think the latter, but we just can’t put our finger on it...

There’s much to love and little to dislike about The Exorcism of Emily Rose. It’s a very well made movie that really gets you thinking without telling you what to think. And the possession is totally freaky, dude!

The film is released on DVD in an unrated version. This is not the good kind of unrated version, but the kind we’ve seen way too much of lately. This does not give us additional violence or nudity (dag nabbit!), but simply wasn’t offered to the MPAA for a rating. The additional footage is nothing more than extra courtroom stuff to flesh out the story.

The movie is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation is quite excellent for the film. By that, we mean that in the dramatic scenes that are happening “now,” picture quality is crystal clear with excellent color, detail, and skin tones. The flashback scenes are much darker and softer, with some details a little fuzzy and skin tones that take on a more washed-out look. While upon explanation this may sound horrible, it’s exactly how the filmmakers wanted it (we can speculate), and it works extremely well.

The audio is in Dolby Digital 5.1, and also varies according to scene. The slow, dramatic parts use the front speakers primarily, with a hard, full sound. The horror bits immerse you in the scene, with creepy noises coming at you from all directions.

Director Scott Derrickson provides a very good audio commentary. He delves into details about set design, casting, why he didn’t take the “a film by...” credit, and even some of his influences. He’s an intelligent speaker who doesn’t drone on or condescend. “Genesis of the Story” is a twenty-minute featurette that discusses how Derrickson and writing partner Paul Harris Boardman came aboard the project. “Casting” and “Visual Design” are shorter, more self-explanatory featurettes that are still moderately interesting. Finally, the deleted scene would have seriously detracted from the film, we think, and was very rightfully chopped.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
122 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.40:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Campbell Scott, Colm Feore, Jennifer Carpenter, Mary Beth Hurt with Henry Czerny and Shohreh Aghdashloo
Produced by Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi
Written by Paul Harris Boardman & Scott Derrickson, directed by Scott Derrickson

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Updated May 13, 2006