The makers of The Exorcism Of Emily Rose are keen to point out that their film is based on a true story, and they're right, but only in the sense that marmalade is based on oranges. Director Scott Derrickson has hired classy performers: Tom Wilkinson as a priest accused of negligent manslaughter following an attempted exorcism and Laura Linney as his lawyer. But despite the sombre tone and frosty visuals, Emily Rose is a straightforward spooker at heart.
The film was inspired by the story of Anneliese Michel, a German college student who suffered mysterious attacks and seizures, leading her Catholic family to believe she was possessed. The film begins after her death, focussing on the trial of Wilkinson's Father Moore, and telling Emily's story in flashback.
True or not, this is classic high concept: Witness For The Prosecution meets The Exorcist. Derrickson shoots his two strands almost as separate movies. The trial is typically juicy courtroom cliché, with lots of angry objections and last minute witnesses. Proceedings are lent a little spice by Linney's agnostic lawyer, who finds to her alarm that she is beginning to believe her client.
"OCCASIONALLY WORKS YOUR NERVES"
The flashback story, meanwhile, is high-octane schlock that occasionally works your nerves, thanks to a committed performance from Jennifer Carpenter as Emily herself. Though it attempts to sell itself as a debate between law and religion, it's clear from the first shot of Em growling Latin which side we are supposed to root for. A classy "boo!" movie for those who like their horror polite.