The Exorcism of Emily Rose tries to scare viewers into belief in supernatural

I don’t do scary movies.

And I don’t do scary movies late at night so they will be fresh in mind when I go to bed.

And I don’t do scary movies in the theaters, where the images are bigger, the sounds are louder and the temperature is noticeably cooler than what is comfortable.

And I definitely don’t do scary movies alone.

I do break these rules from time to time, but until I saw The Exorcism of Emily Rose, I had never broken them all at once. I’m not sure I would have broken all of the rules for any other horror flick.

In the movie, which is based on a true story, Father Richard Moore (Tom Wilkinson), a Catholic priest, is being tried for the negligent homicide of Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter).

According to the prosecution, Moore caused Rose’s death by encouraging her to stop taking the medication she was taking to control her epileptic seizures, disturbing visions and violently odd behavior.

Moore’s defense is that Rose was not suffering from a medical condition, but was actually possessed by demons, and Moore had done everything in his power to save her.

The movie plays out like a courtroom drama with a horror film tucked inside, as the scenes of Rose’s possession and failed exorcism are showed in flashbacks.

Emily Rose is light on special effects and gore, which was truly a breath of fresh air. However, it does use some horror movie cliches to get in some cheap scares, like sudden loud noises and black liquid dripping from the walls.

But the most horrifying scenes involve Rose as she is overcome by the forces inside her. Carpenter’s portrayal of a possessed woman, with body contortions and shrieks, is frighteningly convincing.

Moore repeats time and again that he just wants Rose’s story to be told, and I think the movie is faithful to that vision. It does not exploit demon possession for its shock value. Rather, it tries to portray demon possession in ways that are supposed to be accurate to actual accounts.

It may be this very respect for the issue that keeps the movie from being one of the scariest I’ve ever seen. Don’t be fooled, though; the movie is scary. When I wasn’t hugging myself closely, I was gripping the armrest. My right leg shook uncontrollably. I let out a few very audible yells; and I left the theater stinking of sweat.

Emily Rose was directed and co-written by Scott Derrickson, a Christian. In an interview with, Derrickson said that he wanted audiences to leave the theaters seriously pondering whether or not spiritual forces exist. He said he did not want to explicitly provide an answer to that question, though I think the movie clearly leans toward the affirmative.

Whether non-Christian audiences will stop to consider the possibilities after watching Emily Rose, I don’t know.

But from a Christian perspective, I think the most important theme in the movie is one that will go right over the heads of unbelievers.

The question is brought up as to why God allows such a devout Christian as Rose to be possessed. The answer, in more general terms, is that God is using her to bring glory to Himself. Upon realizing this, Rose faithfully and bravely accepts her role. She goes through more and more pain and suffering as the demons torment her, but she remains comforted knowing that God will use her suffering to bless others.

In all honesty, I doubt that The Exorcism of Emily Rose will go down in film history as one of the greatest horror movies of all time. It suffers from a few too many flaws to achieve that kind of notoriety. But its intelligence and reverent handling of its subject keep it a decent horror film worth enduring.

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