Friday, March 09, 2007

The Exorcism of Emily Rose, 2005

I'm still getting caught up in my reviews of the many crappy horror movies i watched back around Halloween. You might think that my completing the first draft of this review and posting it so long after the viewing would dilute my ability to effectively present the good and bad points of the film, but to that I say, let me jab you in the eye with a stick, and then you take a few months off before describing the experience. I think you'll do just fine, and I assure youI haven't forgotten the sharp poke this film gave me.

1973’s The Exorcist gets better with every crappy demonic possession movie that follows it. Seriously, demonic possession is up there with shark attacks for the thing that has been done so well that only genius or a fool would try to top what has gone before, and Hollywood, we know, is a place where geniuses are few and far between.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose is particularly miserable because it is ‘based’ upon a true story, and after you click over to Wikipedia and learn a little about the basis for this horrible film, you will be sickened even further by how the screenwriters have distorted the events. At the very core, this film is about irrational suffering. Undeniably, Emily Rose has issues. Some suspect the devil, others less dramatic causes, such as epilepsy, and when she dies, the issue becomes what could have been done do save her? There is genuine conflict and horror here, because the idea of a defenseless teenage girl being locked in her bedroom in an isolated farm house and subjected to medieval rituals to alleviate her medical condition is scary and disturbing, and that’s what actually happened to the real-life Emily Rose, but the filmmakers chose instead to construct a bizarre, lopsided, clumsy fiction that fails to frighten, inform or even entertain.

The movie piles it on thick that there is a curse or something going on. Laura Linney, as the defense attorney for the priest who decided that exorcism was better for Emily than, say, medication, has to put up with a lot of spooky shit in her day-to-day while working the case. A witness is hit by a car right in front of her, which didn’t happen in real life, and if it had, would she go back into the courtroom ten minutes later? By the end of the trial, everyone agrees to disagree and no hard time is handed out. That didn’t happen, either, and if it did, the judge who made such a ruling would have been disbarred.

And it’s not scary. All that twisting, exaggeration, CGI and bullshit, and the movie’s not even scary. It’s disturbing at times, certainly, but you don’t need to base something on a true story to go for the gross-out, and just because a movie has a gross-out doesn’t mean it can’t also be entertaining. Look at the original Exorcist, for crying out loud.

Me vs. Roger Ebert: Roger was surprisingly taken with this film. He gave it 3 stars and wrote several paragraphs about the ideological distinctions between the church, the courts, the faithful and the skeptic. I guess I might have let me cynicism carry me away after learning that 90% of ‘the true story’ was changed to make the film better, and it was still awful.