“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”.
Lawyer Erin Bruner defends a priest, Father Richard Moore, charged with negligent homicide for his spiritual oversight over a girl named Emily Rose, which included a failed exorcism and which supposedly led to her death. During the trial, the prosecution’s primary hypothesis is that Emily could have suffered from both epilepsy and psychosis, and that she was medically neglected. Defense counsel Bruner explains that it was when both medicine and psychology had failed Emily, that her family had to seek help through the Church.
Scenes from Emily’s life are shown as flashbacks as the witnesses testify. Several scenes show Emily having episodes when she felt she was being taken over by a demon, these experiences being especially intense around 3:00 AM. After these incidents, she leaves school and returns to live with her parents, none of whom believe she is suffering from any medical condition. They seek help from Father Moore, who obtains permission from the Church to perform an exorcism.
As the trial proceeds, Bruner also begins to experience strange occurrences at 3:00 AM. Moore warns her that she may be targeted by demons for her involvement in the case. Moore later explains that 3:00 AM is the “devil’s hour”, which evil spirits use to mock the Holy Trinity, being the opposite of 3:00 PM, traditionally thought to be the hour at which Jesus died.
Bruner then decides to call Dr. Sadira Adani to testify, a professor of anthropology and psychiatry. Adani goes on to testify about various cultures’ religious and spiritual beliefs regarding spiritual possession and quotes Carlos Castaneda’s A Separate Reality, validating the possibility of Emily’s possession. The prosecution objects; dismissing the testimony as pseudoscience.
Dr. Cartwright, a medical doctor present during the exorcism, reluctantly comes forward and shows Bruner an audio recording made during the rite. Moore is called to the stand to testify. As the recording is played, the film flashes back to the exorcism. It is performed on a rainy Halloween night, because Moore believes “All Saints’ Eve might be easier to draw out the demons”. Emily is initially restrained, but she breaks her bonds and jumps out a window, running into a barn. They follow her there, where they encounter unnatural gusts of wind and demonic screams. As the exorcism resumes, it is ultimately revealed that there are actually six demons residing inside Emily. Compelled to identify themselves, they identify themselves as the demons who possessed Cain, Nero, and Judas Iscariot, as well as the demons Legion, Belial, and Lucifer himself, each speaking in its own native language.
When Dr. Cartwright does not appear in court when scheduled to testify, Bruner finds him standing outside the back of the courthouse, where he fearfully apologizes for backing out of testifying. As he starts to flee, he is hit and killed by a car.
With their key eyewitness and expert dead, Bruner calls Moore back to the stand. He reads a letter that Emily wrote before she died, in which Emily describes an experience she had had the morning after the exorcism. Emily is shown tremblingly walking outside and in an out of body experience, she experiences a Marian apparition, which tells her that the demons will not leave her, so she can choose to die and end her suffering, or live and be living proof of the existence of God and the devil. Emily chooses to live, and she then receives stigmata, which Moore believes is a sign of God’s love for her. To this, the prosecutor argues that she could have just hurt herself in barbed wire.
Will Father Moore be found guilty? Should he be? Go watch it to find out 🙂
The highlight of this entire movie was Jennifer Carpenter’s (Debra Morgan in Dexter) performance, I think she did an awesome job and made every scene she was in really powerful and creepy. The theology in the movie was hardly challenging but, although I already have strong opinions on the subject, it made me think about how other people would view the film. A considerable amount of the film is basically a court room drama, which makes me want for more thrilling scenes. Although it does help build the story and characters, I wish there was more about the actual possession and less about key witnesses and lawyers. For a main character, I found Erin Bruner not very interesting and her “agnostic” flip-flopping and easily swayed attitude really annoyed me. Overall, I think the performances of the actors are much better than the actual story. The storyline was fairly obvious and the ending was disappointing. *spoiler-ish* The verdict that Father Moore gets is just confusing, it’s a way of them appeasing both sides and not making a real decision, which is lame.
The Exorcism Of Emily Rose