Last night Owen and I went to see The Exorcism of Emily Rose. I have to say, I think it was pretty well done. I wouldn’t care to classify as a horror film at all. It was much more “Agnes of God” than “Exorcist.” It’s really a very suspenseful courtroom drama with a whole lot of strange elements that could be viewed as either paranormal (i.e. possession) or physical/psychiatric. The whole movie revolves around the negligent homicide trial of a priest whose treatment and eventual exorcism may or may not have contributed to the death of 19-year-old Emily Rose.
The prosecution’s case: According to her doctors, Emily was in the process of being diagnosed as epileptic and the trauma from her repeated grand mal seizures caused her epilepsy to have psychotic manifestations. Her priest’s recommendations that she go off the Gambutrol in order to deal with the malady in terms of her faith was negligent and eventually lead to her death. The coroner reports that her death was the result of multiple organ failure due to repeated trauma and lack of nutrition to promote bodily healing.
The defense’s claims: Emily was a very sick girl – spiritually sick. Having grown up in an extremely devout family, Emily was “beloved by God” and believed she was, according to a letter written by Emily before her death, chosen by God to suffer in order to bring people back to the church. According to expert witnesses, the exorcism could not work because of the intoxicating state of mind the Gambutrol put her in.
What’s so interesting about this movie is that, from the facts presented, the viewer really can see this story from either side. The truth of the case inevitably falls on the faith of the viewer. Are you willing to believe in demonic possession and selection for martyrdom by God? Or does your sense of logic require you to believe that she had psychotic epilepsy?
Either way, the movie showcases very well-constructed moments of suspense and events that startled me out of my seat (literally) not once, but three times. Owen and I talked about the issues the film raises all the way home though, interestingly, we never debated the validity of Emily’s possession. I guess it didn’t really matter. What we discussed was whether or not the priest should be held responsible for her death. It opens interesting arguments about the arena where faith and law become intermingled.
Despite all that, the movie left me feeling a little creeped out. I don’t suppose it helps that I’ve been reading all week about a similar case wherein a 9-year-old child is believed to be either deeply and profoundly psychotic or the victim of ritual satanic abuse. That and the fact that (no kidding) I woke up in the middle of the night one day early this week because I thought I could smell something burning (watch the movie, it will make sense). I woke Owen up too, and made him check around the house to make sure everything was okay. At the movie we looked at each other and chuckled about it but when I woke up again last night, at 3 a.m. (yikes! – watch the movie) because I could smell charred wood, it took me half an hour to fall back to sleep. Honest to God, I can be such a weenie sometimes.
My rating: B+. It’s not the greatest movie ever made but not bad at all. It was well done, well acted, very suspenseful and thought provoking.