My niche enjoyment has never lapsed over into horror. It never has, and it never will. So why did I watch The Exorcism of Emily Rose? Was it to better my knowledge of the genre? Not particularly no, I can think of a few other horror movies that I would’ve wanted to watch beforehand. What I can safely say though is that horror still isn’t for me.
From the man that eventually pulled himself together and directed Doctor Strange, the Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson led horror thriller is an example of how not to maintain inconsistent tropes of the genre. Director Scott Derrickson struggles to make a competent horror, and it’s no surprise since nearly everyone that directs the dreaded modern horror story is struggling to make it work.
So, what sets The Exorcism of Emily Rose apart from the rest of the genre? Well, most of the film takes place in a courtroom. It’s more Law and Order with a sprinkling of The Conjuring than a proper horror movie. Most of the horror themes take place in poorly edited and paced flashbacks. What surprises me most though is that I wasn’t all that scared throughout. Most of the horror comes from contorting, possessed bodies and the occasional melting face. But once you’ve seen someone’s eyes go black and a body getting thrown at a wall, you’ve basically seen everything the film is going to throw at you.
What does save this film then is the legal subplot. I’m not entirely sure how or why The Exorcism of Emily Rose managed to make this a focal plot point, but it’s by far the most interesting aspect of the movie. Wilkinson and Linney manage to shine briefly in these parts of the movie, albeit not for all that long. The warring disdain between the defendant and the prosecution is all there, and if it were just a drama movie this would’ve worked very well, an interesting study into an unbelievable practice.
Actually, come to think of it, that would’ve been incredible. If the paranormal and supernatural elements were performed off screen or treated as superstition, The Exorcism of Emily Rose would have been a resoundingly unique law drama. Buried deep beneath cheap thrills and moderately strong performances is a superbly untold story of religion, ghosts and everything in between. Instead, the movie is just Liar Liar with the occasional jump scare.
There’s a reason Laura Linney doesn’t lead all that many films these days, and I presume The Exorcism of Emily Rose may have been the final nail in her leading role coffin. So dull and boring the whole way through where nothing happens for hours on end. The few jumps and frights throughout are benign, overdone and not that scary whatsoever. Once the novelty wears off there’s really nothing else in store, neither frightening nor interesting, The Exorcism of Emily Rose fails to bring its script to life.