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This isn't just one review really, but two reviews by two reviewers. My partner watched The Exorcism Of Emily Rose a while a go, and to this day, she can't even acknowledge it's playing on tv without having to leave the room or preoccupy herself with something else. She found it that scary.
When she first watched Rose, she was going through a devout phase, so the implications that the "loosely based on a real story" tag provided an added verisimilitude for her. One of the greatest devices lost to fiction is the spiritual element; Until fairly recently, people were terrified of demons hiding in the audience. Most folk just don't take religion that seriously any more, at least, not to the extent that they can relate to the terror of the characters. I guess the puritanical paranoia around Harry Potter and the smug preaching of Tyler Perry are the last, desperate ebbs of this religious perspective in popular entertainment.
The point I'm making is that when I watched this movie myself, as a non-religious person, I just didn't give a shit about the horror. There is nothing original in the possession or the exorcism plot - it's all screaming demonic girls and contorting limbs - the usual fair. Potentially arresting moments, like one in which a boyfriend wakes up to find his girlfriend paralysed, bent in two, and staring right at him, are undermined by excess; as soon as he takes a closer look at her, she starts roaring and flailing at him. Because that's what all monsters and demons do right? They open their yaps and roar. Whatever.
There is a neatly written court room drama, serving as the main plot to the movie. A lawyer has a potentially indefensible client; a priest who refused medication to an obviously sick child so that he could exorcize her. There is an interesting question about how in a rational society, one is supposed to prove you witnessed something as fanciful sounding as demons and divinity. Again, I think that's where having a strong religious perspective might help: everything that you strongly believe holds no water in the workings of the greater society; couldn't that be a frightening prospect at times? Well, not for me. Like the title said, I got a good courtroom drama and a bad horror movie. I wasn't bored, but I was never scared.
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