Directed by Scott Derrickson, starring Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Campbell Scott and Jennifer Carpenter.
Demonic possession has been the subject of good, bad and downright funny films over the years but while 'The Exorcism of Emily Rose' has some stodgy scenes, it does plenty of things right.
When Emily Rose (Carpenter), a deeply religious and deeply disturbed college student, dies, her parish priest, Father Richard Moore (Wilkinson), is arrested on a charge of negligent homicide. Moore had performed an exorcism on the teenager, but to no avail and she died some hours afterwards in writhing agony. The Catholic hierarchy has hired heavyweight attorney Erin Bruner (Linney) to defend Moore, with the stipulation that the priest must not be allowed testify.
But Moore is adamant the girl's story should be told and warns Bruner he'll only co-operate on his defence if she agrees. Bruner, an atheist, is on a deal that will make her a law firm partner if she gets Moore off but, swayed by his determination, she agrees. What follows will test her beliefs - or lack of them - and see events in court paralleled by eerie happenings outside.
Mixing supernatural thriller and courtroom drama, 'The Exorcism of Emily Rose' plays like an above average TV movie, with Linney and Wilkinson's performances adding to its clout. Told largely in flashbacks, the film sets up the intriguing premise that perhaps Emily Rose suffered from a condition called Epileptic Psychosis, and that her decision not to take medication and not demons was the reason for her death. Pouring scorn on the religious defence is Scott as a churchgoing prosecutor whose icy stare just adds to the chill you feel throughout.
Where the film loses some momentum is in the scenes involving the exorcism itself. These scenes adhere to tired horror movie conventions and it would've been better if viewers had been allowed use their imagination more. That said, elsewhere director Derrickson summons up an unease that is beyond many of his peers and while his film isn't for the faint-hearted, he wisely resists the temptation to go too over-the-top.
'The Exorcist' remains the benchmark, but this film's reputation should be safe from sub-standard sequels.