The Exorcism Of Emily Rose

The Exorcism Of Emily Rose (2005)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Jennifer Carpenter, Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Deleted Scene, Previews

Any film touching upon the possession and exorcism theme has to inevitably measure up and withstand comparison with William Friedkin's horror classic "The Exorcist." While it would have been an easy thing to turn the story of Emily Rose into a simple, uninventive Exorcist-rip-off, writer and director Scott Derrickson took a very different approach and the result is a film that made an impressive impact at the box office and is a stirring experience to view.

Based on true events, "The Exorcism Of Emily Rose" is the story of an exorcism gone-awry. 19-year old Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter) leads normal rural life when she receives a college scholarship and lives in a dorm. There, one night she is possessed by a demon, it seems and her life quickly turns into a dark, eternal nightmare. Doctors diagnose her as a schizophrenic and rely on medication to help her – with little effect. As things turn worse, Emily and her parents turn to their parrish priest Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson) who believes that Emily is possessed by demons and, instead of medication, requires an exorcism to save her body and soul. But the exorcism fails and in the weeks that follow Emily's condition deteriorates until she finally dies.

Father Moore now has to defend himself against charges of negligent homicide when career-driven lawyer Erin Brunner (Laura Linney) picks up his case, trying to dismiss the charges. The story she is pulled into is horrifying and changes the lives of everyone surrounding the trial. In fact, to a degree, it changed the world.

Part courtroom drama and part horror film, "The Exorcism Of Emily Rose" is a masterfully crafted movie experience that plays all its cards right. The set up, presented in bleak, bleached images, the trial and then step by step, the terrifying events surrounding Emily's possession, all are woven together carefully to create an intricate film that never tries to overtly shock or moralize. Like Laura Linney's character, it simply asks "Is it possible?" and leave the viewer to ponder. It is wonderfully, intelligent horror cinema like we haven't seen it in a long time.

While you should not expect Linda-Blair-style turning heads and pea soup vomiting, Jennifer Carpenter's portrayal of the possessed Emily Rose is no less frightening. Even more so as no overt special effects – other than make-up – have been used to create her bizarre performance. Contorted beyond all means, with a face that is a grimace of horror and shrieking to break glass, Carpenter makes an unbelievably strong impression on the viewer, creating both sympathy and horror in a single shot. It is a commanding performance that should help put the actress on the Hollywood fast-track. But it is also Julliard-graduate Laura Linney and veteran actor Tom Wilkinson who make sure the film never feels sensational. The material is presented in a way that feels real on all levels, thanks to their astute performances and the magnificent direction by Scott Derrickson.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is presenting "The Exorcism Of Emily Rose" in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio on this release in a transfer that is enhanced for 16×9 TV sets. The image is absolutely clean and not a hint of a blemish is visible anywhere. No grain distracts from the viewing and with its faithful color reproduction, the movie is sometimes as bleak as the characters' outlook or as psychedelically colorful as the nightmarish visions we witness.
Black levels are rock solid, giving the image incredible depth. Shadows never break up, adding to the ominous look and feel of many scenes in the film. No edge-enhancement mars the transfer and the compression is also without flaw. This is simply a picture perfect transfer by all means.

The audio comes as a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital track, complete with optional English subtitles. The audio is dynamic and offers a wide frequency response. As a result basses are working their way into your consciousness more on an emotional than an audible level at times, as the filmmakers carefully set up menacing scenes that will give you goose bumps. The top end of the spectrum is also very clear and free of distortion or sibilance.

The release comes with a number of great special features, including a commentary track by director Scott Derrickson in which he elaborates on all aspects of the movie and the material. Being a young director you can tell that Derrickson grew up on commentary tracks and he is giving his best to make sure this commentary offers not only a lot of information but also a lot of value and insight into the process of making this film.

Next up is a selection of featurettes covering different aspects of the film in "Genesis Of The Story," Derrickson and co-writer Paul Harris Boardman discuss how they discovered the story and attached themselves to it in order to turn it into a movie. In "Casting The Film" the filmmakers discuss how they picked their cast and how important it was for them to find the right actors for each part, and of course how they found Jennifer Carpenter to play the titular character.
The 20-minute featurette "Visual Design" then takes a closer look at the atmosphere, cinematography and overall look of the movie.

You will also find a deleted scene on the release, complete with a commentary by the director. All I can say about it is that I am glad it never made it into the final film. Its tone and content simply does not match the rest of the film in my opinion.

"The Exorcism Of Emily Rose" is a very different experience than, say, "The Exorcist" but no less frightening or thrilling. I would consider this film an instant classic, to be honest, because it is one of the few films that work on such a deep level that they touch you no matter what your own thoughts are on the subject matter. If you have not seen "The Exorcism Of Emily Rose" yet, go out and buy this DVD right now. This is a movie experience you simply cannot afford to miss, even if you are not a horror film fan.