A well-paced horror that focuses on story over scares – but in a really good way. A brief overview and thoughts on The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2006), where faith battles against evil and against science in the courtroom.
[Warning – Spoilers ahead!]
Don’t get me wrong The Exorcism Of Emily Rose (2006) had some really creepy scenes and a few scares that made me jump out of my seat! But the pacing is not your typical slow build up of following the characters’ discovery of evil as it happens.
Instead we start at the end – where Emily Rose’s exorcism has already killed her and we experience the horrors she endured in a series of ever more frightening flash-backs, building to a convincing, hellish crescendo.
Based on a true story, this film had me captivated by the detailed accounts and scientific / anthropological theories behind demonic possession. With a refreshing take on paranormal horror, it is set mostly in the courtroom examining the case against Richard Moore, the priest who presided over Emily Rose’s exorcism.
Faith vs. Science
The battle between faith and science is skilfully juggled, skipping past the usual black and white clichés, instead delving into the grey areas of belief and scepticism.
I found myself fascinated by Anthropologist and Psychiatrist Dr. Sadira Adani’s assertion that the drug prescribed to Emily Rose, Gambutrol (a fictional drug for the film), was in fact inhibiting her brain from being able to reject the demons. Whether you believe in demonic possession or not, there must be something significant happening in the brain when possession symptoms occur, regardless of what the cause is.
I find the idea that upsetting the chemistry in the wrong way could have an adverse effect or the ‘possessed’ from being able to control their own mind into regaining ownership a really interesting concept that I’ve not come across before.
I also found it quite moving that Emily Rose’s sacrifice had the significant effect her vision told her it would have, in the form of hundreds of people being deeply touched by her story and hence visiting her shrine after her death.
However true to the facts the movie or may not be, it’s a remarkable story that really got me thinking about science and faith, particularly how the difference between the two needn’t be such a vast chasm if our perspectives are slightly shifted.
The Real Emily Rose
The true story that inspired this movie is that of Anneliese Michel, a young German woman who underwent Catholic exorcism rites in 1975 and died the following year. Whilst the details differ, it’s still a remarkable story, which you can discover more about on the blog Diabolical Confusions  or in this book: The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel
Honestly, I find the bits I’ve read about Annaliese even more unsettling than the movie. And knowing it had some roots in truth made actress Jennifer Carpenter’s depiction of Emily Rose in her contorted, seething state all the more scary to me. There are even some audio recordings of Anneliese’s exorcism, but this got me properly spooked, so listen at your own discretion!
Have you seen this movie? What did you think of it and the questions it asked? Leave a comment!