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Film / The Exorcism of Emily Rose

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The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a 2005 horror/drama film that is loosely based on a Roman Catholic Church exorcism in 1976, performed on Anneliese Michel. It concerns the story of Emily Rose, a 19-year-old college student who suffers problems of a sufficiently ill-defined nature, that medicine and later an actual exorcism fail to cure. The movie refuses to make an explicit statement on whether the problems are psychotic or demonic, and whether the medicine and exorcism are helping or interfering with one another. Her questions unanswered, Emily eventually dies from self-injury and malnutrition.

The story is told in flashbacks after the priest who performed the exorcism and oversaw Emily's care is arrested on charges of negligent homicide. The flashbacks are told from various perspectives, each providing a spiritual or medical reason for her condition and death. In an interesting twist, the priest, Father Moore, is represented by an agnostic attorney, Erin Brunner, and is prosecuted by a churchgoing Methodist, Ethan Thomas. Over the course of the trial, the jury and audience is asked to consider the possibility that Emily may have been possessed, and Erin is forced to confront her own beliefs regarding spirituality and morality.


This film provides examples of:

  • As the Good Book Says...: The Bible, especially the Gospels and Acts, is quoted several times during the exorcism scene, and Emily's epitaph is a verse from Philippians.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: Downplayed in that the prosecuting attorney is a devout Methodist, but the religious aspect of the story is portrayed from the perspective of Father Moore and Emily Rose, both devoutly Catholic, and makes strong use of Catholic imagery and theology.
  • Good Shepherd: Although he fails to save Emily, Father Moore is presented as a sincere and caring person who tries to help her.
  • Hollywood Exorcism: As usual the exorcism is dramatized.
  • Hollywood Law:
  • Madness Mantra: "Onetwothreefourfivesix onetwothreefourfivesix...." In English, Latin, and Aramaic at that.
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  • Many Spirits Inside of One: In one scene Emily speaks with the voices of many demons, who claim to have possessed multiple well-known criminals, murderers or traitors like Judas. One may wonder why they go after a normal girl, but the truth is different from its toned down adaptation. In Anneliese's case, demons weren't claiming they possessed those people, they claimed to be them, aside from the one who claimed to be Lucifer.
  • Posthumous Character: Emily dies before the story starts. We learn about her afterward.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: Happens as the prosecuting attorney attempts to refute the fantastic claims made by the defense witnesses. To highlight this, the defense flashbacks have a horrifying and stylized look while the prosecution flashbacks have a grim, but more realistic look. Interestingly, the film's script was co-written by a Christian and an agnostic, so the two versions of the flashbacks could be said to represent the two writers' different views.
  • Religious Horror: The premise of the movie focuses on the existence of demons and Emily Rose's struggle against them, as well as incorporating issues of divine revelation, God and the battle between good and evil. Religious imagery such as the crucifix is sometimes used to evoke horror during the Exorcism scene.
  • Right on the Tick: Bad things happen at 3:00 A.M.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The real Anneliese Michel suffered from severe mental problems and epilepsy, stopped taking her medication and regularly starved herself. Her "exorcists", along with her parents, were convicted of negligent homicide after her death.


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