Updated: Nov 11, 2019
Nominee #4 - The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
A priest is accused of negligent homicide after he performs an exorcism on a young woman who dies soon afterwards. An agnostic lawyer must defend him in a court of law as beliefs are tested and a horrifying story unfolds.
“People say that God is dead but how can they think that if I show them the Devil.”
Based on the real life story of Anneliese Michel (a young girl who underwent an exorcism before her death from malnourishment and dehydration), The Exorcism of Emily Rose uses the gripping courtroom case (negligent homicide) against the priest who conducted the exorcism on the teenage girl, Emily, to narrate (in flashback) her demonic possession.
It is in the end a very intelligent and moving portrayal of a complex and multi-layered tragedy.
Directed by Scott Derrickson (who went on to direct Doctor Strange - 2016) the film stars Jennifer Carpenter (as Emily Rose), Tom Wilkinson (as the accused priest) and Laura Linney (as the agnostic lawyer defending the priest).
While the movie does have truly scary jumps and shocking contortions by the tormented possessed victim, it is in the end a very intelligent and moving portrayal of a complex and multi-layered tragedy. A highlight is the courtroom drama that unfolds as the legal system enters the unchartered territory of beliefs. Was Emily simply a psychotic epileptic who was not treated accordingly or was she truly possessed by demons as the priest believed?
A compelling story, an intriguing ethical dilemma and very committed acting performances.
In the end, this film works so well because it uses the widely differing perspectives of different characters retelling events in the story to present an open-ended meditation on the possibility of demonic possession without swerving irrevocably either way in its verdict.
A quietly impressive film that manages to avoid the usual horror clichés and yet delivers an absorbing and unnerving view of that hazy domain of ‘what-ifs’ explored in an enthralling faith-versus-science exploration.
Unpredictable psychological horror in an utterly tragic story, told with true class.