Monday, July 21, 2008

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

Starring: Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Campbell Scott, and Jennifer Carpenter

Directed by: Scott Derrickson

Written by: Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson

Production Companies: Screen Gems, Lakeshore Entertainment, and Firm Films

Let's face it, as far as horror genres go, demonic possession and exorcism movies are few and far between. But then, how much can you do with that story. Someone, typically a young girl or woman, begins experiencing strange phenomena, becomes possessed, and a priest gets called in. The ending, with how successful the exorcism is completed, is the only real variation. But The Exorcism of Emily Rose shows us that does not mean an exciting, new take on what might seem like a limited tale is still possible.

Emily Rose's very religious family is concerned when she gets into a college on a scholarship. But their concerns about the outside world turns out to not be Emily Rose's main problem as she begins having horrible nightmares. Or are they real?

After doctors proove unable to help Emily Rose's psychotic episodes, the family calls in Father Moore. Father Moore does his best to help Emily Rose and exorcise the demon who possesses her, but Emily Rose dies.

Then the movie starts...

What makes The Exorcism of Emily Rose interesting is that the movie is really more about Father Moore's trial and the experiences of lawyer Erin Bruner as she defends the priest during his trial for criminal negligence. The court drama feel of the story makes Emily Rose an intriguing horror film mixing court room drama staples such as old cases being mentioned that will eventually play a role in the film, lawyer rivalry, a law firm dictating how the case is to be handled and the lawyer doing it her own way and a strong, fair judge making both lawyers pull out all of the stops with horror elements creates a unique viewing experience.

Laura Linney, whose previous horror experience
was in 2002's The Mothman Prophecies, plays the hotshot, confident lawyer with the court win that will come back to haunt her. Her role as Erin Bruner put Linney through her paces and she handled it marvelously being able to carry every scene whether she had to be arrogant, uncertain, or downright fearful. Linney pulls off a scene looking for the souce of a burning smell that parallels an event from Emily Rose's story and does so without overstating the incident. No broad movements or words necessary...we knew what she was doing.

Her antagonist, rival lawyer Ethan Thomas, is played by Campbell Scott. Campbell Scott, like Linney, is not a common horror face, but he did appear in Top of the Food Chain, a sci-fi horror comedy from 1999 and the television movie The Tale of Sweeney Todd, the 1998 predecessor to the Johnny Depp musical. Scott does a good job in the role of Thomas, the pious, no-nonsense prosectuing attorney. He takes a character that could have been played very flat and, with subtle displays of annoyance when things aren't going his way and satisfaction when they are, creates a realistic character. A cool point occurred as Thomas cross-examined a witness when we see a scene reshot in a manner suggesting simple psychosis rather than demonic possession.

Tom Wilkinson brings to life Father Moore who is more concerned about telling Emily Rose's story than he is proving his own innocence. Wilkinson is an accomplished actor, and doesn't breaking the casting mold of bringing someone atypical to horror into the movie. Wilkinson's probably best remembered in his role as Carmine Falcone in Batman Begins, but the closest to a horror movie before Emily Rose is 1996's The Ghost and the Darkness which is really more adventure.

While Father Moore is the center of the courtroom drama, Emily Rose is the center of the horror story. Her first horror role, Jennifer Carpenter brings us Emily Rose as she goes through innocent teen to possesssed terror. The harnesses used in creating the body contortions could not have been pleasant, but this dedicated actress goes through with it bringing us more realistic shots than computer effects would. She plays her possession to chilling levels, all the more startling when remembering the innocent girl we saw at the start.

Jennifer Carpenter returns to horror on October 10, 2008 in Quarantine. Television reporter Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman are assigned to spend the night shift with a Los Angeles Fire Station. After a routine 911 call takes them to a small apartment building, they find police officers already on the scene in response to blood curdling screams coming from one of the apartment units. They soon learn that a woman living in the building has been infected by something unknown. After a few of the residents are viciously attacked, they try to escape with the news crew in tow, only to find that the CDC has quarantined the building. Phones, internet, televisions and cell phone access have been cut-off, and officials are not relaying information to those locked inside. When the quarantine is finally lifted, the only evidence of what took place is the news crews videotape.

Laura Linney has not returned to horror films, but will be seen next in theaters nationally on December 25, 2008 in The Other Man, costarring Liam Neeson and Antonio Banderas. It is the story of a husband who suspects his wife of adultery, and sets out to track down the other man in her life.

Campbell Scott has also not returned to horror. His next cinematic appearance will be in the Canadian film One Week due out some time in 2008.

Wilkinson appears again on the Silver Screen in RocknRolla, an October 31st film directed by Guy Ritchie where a stolen painting pits some of the city's scrappiest tough guys against its more established underworld players.

Director and writer Scott Derrickson is writing the script for the 2009 remake of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds paretnered again with Paul Harris Boardman currently set for release on July 3, 2009 and rumored to star Naomi Watts. Derrickson returns to the director's chair with the remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still starring Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly to be released December 12, 2008.

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