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Paranormal Movie Review
by Christopher Varney

“The Exorcism of Emily Rose” – Directed by Scott Derrickson

As a cross between “The X-Files” and “Law & Order,” the mild horror flick “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” is an unusual tale blending, of all things, demonology and the law.

Based on the case of a German girl circa 1976, the story turns on a young woman (Jennifer Carpenter) who dies after an exorcism performed on her by Father Moore, a Catholic priest (Tom Wilkinson) now charged with negligent homicide. Fighting it out in court over the aftermath are Laura Linney (“Kinsey”) as agnostic defense counsel Erin Bruner, who takes Moore’s case to boost her career, and prosecutor Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott) who claims Moore effectively killed Emily by stopping her potentially life-saving medication.

In court, Emily’s testimony is told in flashback, starting with her days as a hopeful, college-bound girl, to her final agonizing weeks marked by painful contortions, alleged visions of demons, and spouting threats in Latin.

Quickly, despite the uphill legal battle it represents, Erin realizes that claiming Emily’s death was supernatural is her client’s only out. This, versus Ethan’s hard counterclaim, despite his own Christian faith, that Emily’s behavior was medically explainable, and therefore, preventable.

Here, “Emily Rose” tries to strike an “Inherit The Wind”-like balance between reason, faith, and the law that involves more objections and sidebars than spinning heads and green vomit. Still, the film’s isn’t without spooky asides (a la “The Omen”) where unseen forces target their goodly enemies – in this case, at 3AM, the inverse of the hour which Christ is said to have died. These gags are semi-effective, yet do not overwhelm “Emily’s” core story as each side finally rests its case, and a verdict on Father Moore’s actions is delivered.

Although largely dismissed by critics as dull and pointless, “Emily Rose” is not a bad film by any stretch. In fact, I found it intriguing with a quiet spiritual tone that is refreshingly unlike, for example, Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of The Christ,” whose sermon was delivered with the nuance of a jackhammer.

As Emily herself, Jennifer Carpenter is very good as one brutalized by something beyond her control, be it supernatural or not. Plus, Linney, Scott, and Wilkinson all deliver fine performances we have come to expect from all three actors.

Ultimately, if “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” has any lasting Sunday School message, it’s that God loves a martyr. However, the more tangible issue of whether Emily’s condition is demonic or not is thankfully left to the viewer, and is not thrust upon us by others. If only the same could be said for other, similar movie morality tales.