The Exorcism and Courtroom Drama of Emily Rose

The Exorcism and Courtroom Drama of Emily Rose January 19, 2024

When I was a grad student at Franciscan University, a group of us college folks went to see ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’.  It was a hard movie to convince my fellow grad students to go see with me. Not a lot of people wanted to watch a film that would scare them with nightmares for the rest of the week. I can testify that I jumped out of my seat quite a few times scaring the poor girl next to me as I latched on to her in those moments of cinematic terror.

‘Emily Rose’ however is not a straight out horror film. It is more like a courtroom drama with horror elements. The film however seems to go beyond the description of any one genre. Those of you, who might like to see it but are expecting ‘The Exorcist’, can rest assured. The movie is actually based upon the true story of a young German woman named Anneliese Michel who died in 1976 after a year of exorcism sessions given to her by her local priest. In the film version she is an American young woman named Emily Rose.

Emily Rose had started to have some very serious medical problems including seizures and what appeared to be psychotic episodes after going away to college. Her parents trusted her to the care of their local priest Fr. Moore (Tom Wilkerson.) After she dies the priest is put on trial for negligent homicide. He claims that she was the victim of demonic possession and not anything medically related. Instead of keeping her on medicine that supposedly would have saved her life, Fr. Moore relayed on faith alone to cure her of what he perceived to be spiritual problems alone.

Out to put the priest behind bars is prosecuting attorney Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott). Even though he claims to be a devout believer in God, he seems to leave no room for the possibility that demons might be the cause of this young girls death. Out to defend the priest is Erin Bruner (Laura Linney). She is on the other hand is agnostic, but yet seems to leave room open for the possibility that the spiritual world does exist. Either a world with or without God , she reminds the jury, is something to ponder at. While none of the characters in the film are really that in-depth, the story in and of itself, plus the questions and ideas that it raises, more then make up for the lack of deep character development.

What side does the film side with? Was it spiritual or physical and psychological problems that killed this young girl? The film tries to present a nice neutral opinion, giving enough evidence from both sides to suggest that either would be possible. The priest wants so bad to testify on the stand as he believes that it is his mission in life to tell Emily’s story. And according to the film itself, that is the mission of the movie.

While Constantine used spiritual warfare in a purely mythological way to create just another action film with Keanu Reeves going all John Wick on demons, ‘Emily Rose’, uses spiritual warfare not just to tell a good compelling courtroom drama, but to bring to light the reality of a world apart from our own. It does not shove this reality down your throat but presents questions and facts and lets you like the jury in the film decide for yourself. And my verdict is that this is one of the most faith affirming movies Hollywood has put out in the same way the “The Passion” or “The Chosen” has done. See the movie without fear, but be prepared to grab the person next to you.

For a review of the original scary Exorcist movie check out…

A Non-Practicing Catholic Reviews The Exorcist 

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