Film Reviews


By • Sep 9th, 2005 •

Share This:

I’ve just finished reading “An Exorcist Tells His Story” by renowned chief exorcist of Rome, Gabriele Amorth. Fr. Amorth accounts many experiences in his ministry as an exorcist “doing battle with Satan to relieve the great suffering of many people in the grip of evil.” I believe in demons and the effectiveness of exorcism.

Jesus was an exorcist (Luke 13:11-12; Mark 9:17-27) who empowered his apostles to cast out demons: “In my name they will cast out demons.” (Mark 16-17). Therefore, the Catholic Church cannot deny that Satan does possess people and priests can cast out demons. The tradition of exorcism goes right back to the Church’s founder.

Fr. Amorth mentions the exorcism of Annelise [sp] Michel of Kilingenberg, Germany. Michel was twenty-one years old when she died in 1976 following a long series of exorcisms. Her possession began in 1968. The two exorcists involved, and the parents, underwent a legal trial. Fr. Amorth mentions a book that researched the facts of the case in greater depth than a previous book that implied “the two priests were all too eager to suspect the presence of diabolic possession.” “Annelise Michel” by Kasper Bullinger, exonerated the two exorcists.

Fr. Amorth writes: “[The book] demonstrated that both the bishop who had authorized the exorcisms and the two priests had acted with the utmost propriety. The book also indicated the cause of the girl’s death, which was completely independent from the administration and reception of the sacramental. In any case, this event contributed to the reluctance of priests to accept appointments as exorcists.”

The exorcism of Anneliese Michel is the basis for THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE.

In 1990-91 I spent a considerable amount of time with Arkansas psychic Carol Pate, who “depossessed” hundreds of people suffering with demonic possession. I have Carol’s manual “New Revelations: A New Age Christian Depossession Manual” and attended several of her private and public workshops. I recently saw Carol on Court TV’s “Psychic Detectives.” (I was never “depossessed,” choosing instead to keep my demons who are very entertaining and like going to movies with me.)

Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter) is an unlikely candidate for demonic possession: she is a 19 year old, very devout Catholic. (Demons are usually invited in.) As soon as she leaves for college, the demonic forces that invaded her body start raising havoc. (The reason why Emily was chosen is explained. She was a sensitive, sought after by the demons because of her sanctity.*) She leaves college and returns home where her medication for psychotic epilepsy does not relieve her symptoms. Her parents call in their parish priest, Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson). With the approval of his diocese, he begins, on Halloween Night, the Rituale Romanun Rite of Exorcism.

Upon examining Emily’s horrific bodily condition, the medical doctor refuses to certify her death as due to natural causes. Father Moore is arrested.** The diocese hires brilliant lawyer Erin Bruner (Laura Linney), after her boss tells her he will make her a partner if she (a) gets the priest to take a deal, or, if Father Moore wouldn’t agree to the deal, (b) keep the truth about the exorcism away from the jury and public.

Of course, against self-professed agnostic Bruner, the prosecutor (Campbell Scott) is a religious prick who teaches Sunday school and sings in the church choir. He is such a prissy antagonist that your sympathies go straight to Bruner. Through the court case, we are shown Emily Rose’s ordeal. Emily sees the demons lurking in the souls of people. Her body is under siege. The demons will not allow her to eat. They beat her up.

Bruner has a hard time getting around selling “demon possession” to a jury, but soon she starts feeling she too is being harassed by elemental dark forces. Bruner finally finds an anthropologist (Shoreh Agdashloo) who has studied possession in primitive cultures. (This is a perfect place to recommend a work I consider a textbook: “Ecstatic Religion: A Study of Shamanism and Spirit Possession” by I. M. Lewis). Just when Bruner is losing the case, the medical doctor in attendance at the exorcism comes forward. He’s afraid, but will testify.

Unlike that other famous exorcism film, this one is more analytical and smart: This is primarily a legal movie so our intelligent lawyers are forced to argue epilepsy versus possession. Emily Rose is tortured but hardly violent to her family. The screenwriters, director Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman, obviously did a great deal of research; however, the speed of Emily Rose’s absolute deterioration, and focus on the trial, leaves us wondering why the demons would want to kill the host.

Obviously, I find the subject fascinating and THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE is well done and satisfying. The trail’s outcome, while not following the case, is realistic. Derrickson, doesn’t allow cheap thrills and too many creaking doors. Instead, Emily Rose’s possession is more physical than psychological. Wilkinson is convincing and sincere, while Linney works her standard facial expressions. A few of us complained that Linney suddenly appeared to have starlet white-hot hair every time she is in her bedroom, but is a sedate ash blond in the courtroom.

*A footnote after the film says her gravesite is now a “shrine” visited by people who consider Anneliese Michel, aka “Emily Rose,” a saint for enduring demonic possession as a sacrifice benefiting others.

**The priests and parents of Anneliese Michel were found guilty of negligent manslaughter and omitting first aid. They served six months in jail.

Tagged as: , ,
Share This Article: Digg it | | Google | StumbleUpon | Technorati

Leave a Comment

(Comments are moderated and will be approved at FIR's discretion, please allow time to be displayed)