A thrilling, horror film based on a true story about a single lawyer (Laura Linney), who takes on the church and the state, when she fights for the life of a priest (Tom Wilkinson), who has performeda deadly exorcism on a young woman. Linney must battle the cocky state lawyer (Campbell Scott) as well as her own demons, as she realizes that her career so far has not led her to fulfillment.
A surprise hit when it was released in September 2005, The Exorcism of Emily Rose tells a riveting horror story while tackling substantial issues of religious and spiritual belief. It's based on the true story of Anneliese Michel, a German student who believed she was possessed by demons, and whose death during an attempted exorcism in 1976 led to the conviction of two priests on charges of negligent manslaughter.
As director and cowriter (with Paul Harris Boardman), filmmaker Scott Derrickson adapts this factual case into a riveting courtroom drama in which questions of faith, and the possibility of demonic possession, take the place of provable facts in the case of Father Moore (superbly played by Tom Wilkinson). A small-town Catholic priest, Moore has been put on trial for the post-exorcism death of Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter), a college student who, like her real-life inspiration, believed she was suffering from demonic possession. As an agnostic defense attorney (Laura Linney) argues the father's case against a Methodist prosecutor (Campbell Scott), flashbacks reveal the exorcism ritual and Emily's ultimately fatal ordeal, and Carpenter's performance is so frighteningly effective that it's almost painful to watch.
From here, the film remains deliberately ambiguous, leaving viewers to ponder their own belief (or lack of it) in the supernatural. It lacks the extreme shock value of The Exorcist, but by leaving room for doubt and belief in a legal context, The Exorcism of Emily Rose gains depth and resonance in a way that guarantees similar long-term appeal. --Jeff Shannon