Saturday, September 17, 2005

I'm not a big fan of scary movies. I'm naturally a jumpy sort, and I don't see anything with a lot of graphic violence in it. I can't fathom why people complain about pornography, and yet they're glad to plunk down $10 to see dismemberments and shootings. Nice values.

In spite of this, I gladly went along with my wife choice of our Friday night flick -- "The Exorcism of Emily Rose." I do like a good spook story, and I assume a PG rating to mean there will not be wanton use of chainsaws and machetes.

Unfortunately, this film's screenwriters cast out the demons of excitement and intensity through the choice of setting. Despite what the trailers show, 90 percent of "Emily Rose" takes place in a courtroom, as the story centers on the trial of the priest who attempted the exorcism. You go in expecting pea-soup fountains and spinning heads and wind up with "Brimstone & Order."

This isn't to say the movie isn't a little scary. There are moments of enjoyable creepiness and fright, and the understated special effects are more jarring than might be expected. "Emily Rose" does nice work in paralleling possession with the prosecution's explanation of a possible combination of psychosis and epilepsy.

But the trial sequences come off hokey and predictable, and the insight into Laura Linney's defense attorney are too cliche -- she drinks, she's gotten an acquittal for a man who ends up murdering again, she's trying to make partner. Tom Wilkinson's turn as Father Moore is decent, but he's just not given much to work with here. He seems awfully damned calm for a guy scrapping with Lucifer, and there's just no "The power of Christ compels you" for him here.

And Campbell Scott, who I don't know much about, is atrocious as the prosecuting attorney. The character is meant to be starchy and stuff, I'm sure, but it's tough to take a guy with an 80s porn-star mustache and Snidely Whiplash overtones too seriously.

Give Jennifer Carpenter credit for slogging through this. She plays possessed pretty well, with the requisite gnashing of teeth and screaming, but the screenwriters never give us a chance to know her and like her before Satan sublets her soul.

What really galls me, though, is this whole "based on a true story" crap. I'm not going to go into much detail, but a little research will show the actual case turned out much differently than the movie does, including the conviction of both the priest and the parents. Anneliese Michel is a German girl from the late 60s/early 70s who more than likely was seriously ill rather than possessed, not a farm girl in the 80s who got screwed over by Lucifer.

You might jump a little in your seat, but "Emily Rose" withers and dies before the end of the first scene. Save your cash and go rent "The Exorcist" instead.


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