There are two kinds of films that really scare the hell out of me; well done ghost stories and films about demonic possession. I don’t especially like the thought of intangible antagonists, and the scared little Catholic kid in me is especially frightened by the ones who operate under the auspices of the devil himself. I mean, after all, we’re talking about the ultimate bad guy, here; the poster child of evil whether you believe in him or not.
And...well...I guess I'm one of them there believer types.
Emily Rose is based on the story of Anneliese Michel, a young German woman who “starved to death” after purportedly suffering nearly a decade’s worth of demonic possession. The film tells us Emily’s (Carpenter) story over the course of the trial of Father Moore (Wilkinson), the priest entrusted with her exorcism, and the man that the prosecution holds responsible for her death. The state prosecutor (Scott) argues that Moore’s influence misled Emily and her family to eschew her doctor’s diagnosis of epilepsy and, instead, embrace the idea that her ailment was not physical, but spiritual. Moore’s lawyer, Erin Bruner (Linney), argues on the priest’s behalf, despite the fact that she’s an agnostic and doesn’t believe in any of this nonsense. However, as she gets drawn deeper into the case, her beliefs are challenged by events that not only have a profound effect on the case’s outcome, but on Erin, herself.
People who pick up Emily Rose expecting either a cookie-cutter horror flick or a visceral shocker in the mold of 1974’s The Exorcist will both be sorely disappointed, for this film is neither. It’s more intelligent than it is scary, as Emily Rose moves along at a quietly deliberate pace, with most of the action set in the courtroom, making it nearly as much of a legal drama as it is a horror film. The film is scary, but in a much more primal way, with many of its horrific build-ups leading to nothing more than quiet realization, and only the occasional poke to keep audiences on their guard.
Instead of obvious shocks and clichés, director Derrickson chooses to underscore his film with consistent tension and an inescapable sense of dread. I especially appreciated how Derrickson’s script presented the story from both sides, with flashbacks to Moore’s version of the events providing the film with its horror quotient, and the prosecution’s argument giving us the sort of “facts” that help us sleep at night.
The performances from Linney and Wilkinson are expectedly solid, but I have to say I was especially impressed by Jennifer Carpenter ("Dexter"/"Quarantine")in the unforgiving role of Emily. The actress managed to convincingly run the gamut through emotions and expressions; from wholesome to harried, terrified to terrifying, Carpenter nails the role, and makes the character all the more tragic.
Sony brings Emily Rose to vivid life with a very solid 1080p AVC 2.40.1 transfer that replicates the film’s creepy, muted color palette quite nicely, and, at times, looks almost three dimensional. One part that stood out to me was the scene in which Emily experiences her first bit of supernatural phenomena whilst away at college. She ventures out into a rainy night in search of a phone, and the combination of the lighting, the red/gold backdrop, and the shimmering rain just popped right off of the screen. There’s occasional grain (especially during a “dream sequence” in which Emily wanders off into a white fog bank) but much of it is stylistic, and, save for that minor quibble, I couldn’t find a nit to pick with this transfer.
When I saw Emily Rose in the theater back in 2005, I remember being absolutely floored by the film’s sound effects, which accounted for at least half of the times I jumped in my seat. The 5.1 True HD soundtrack presented here reproduces that sonic experience, and then some. This is an all-out aural assault that makes full use of the surrounds, and gives the subwoofer a rigorous work over. The effects range from the super subtle (Emily’s fingernails snapping off as she digs into the wall plaster) to the bombastic (the titular exorcism sequence!), and are all presented with incredible depth and clarity.
Extras are all carryovers from the DVD release and are presented in standard definition. Features include a commentary track with Derrickson, three short featurettes - Genesis Of The Story, Casting the Film, and Visual Design -that add up to around 40 minutes worth of behind-the-scenes and interview stuff, and a deleted scene that I think would have really worked had they left it in the film. A few HD trailers for other Sony releases round out the goodies.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose is an absorbing, frightening, and altogether disturbing tale of demonic possession that wisely avoids the well-trodden path first cleared by The Exorcist and, instead, presents its story in a new and riveting fashion. This is an excellent presentation that, save for the recycled SD extras, really displays the potential of horror on Blu, and is well worth adding to your collection.