The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) – 3/5

A relatively mediocre horror/thriller concoction with a few cheap scares and plenty of weird imagery, courtesy of Jennifer Carpenter and her superhuman ability to distort her face and body in disturbing, unnatural ways. Oh, and scream real loud in 3 different languages.

The film is well shot. It looks great, like a traditional horror film looks like today. The acting is okay, except for Carpenter who’s fantastic; really the star of the show. The way she manages to look kind of pretty one moment, and totally hideous and demonic the next was very impressive.

Her face is just triangular enough to pull off looking subhuman, especially when straining her neck at certain odd angles. And her eyes were almost comically deranged throughout; looking into them was like looking into the mouth of insanity itself. How she pulled off being possessed this convincingly is beyond me. Well done.

The story is kind of hum drum, and ultimately can’t make up its mind as to whether it’s a supernatural thriller or just a normal thriller with deep psychological elements. Yeah, sure, it’s supposed to be ambiguous, but it really isn’t. It’s clear that the filmmakers wanted to give viewers the impression that it could be either or, but decided ultimately to include clear supernatural elements that leave little room for doubt, which kind of annoyed me.

It would have been better if they had indeed kept it more ambiguous, or at least made the non-supernatural elements a bit more defined rather than casting them in such dubious, spiteful light.

Also, there are too many cheap scares. Lots of “BOO! GOTCHA!” moments. They’re effective, but come on. Lame. The only genuinely scary moment is the exorcism scene, which is pretty intense and had me hiding under my desk when all was said and done.

But other than the strong performance and the one really good scene I just mentioned, it’s pretty average. It could have used some stronger direction, and a bit more polish here and there. Oh, and way too many flashbacks. Screenwriting 101, people!

Overall, eh. Watch it for the strong performance from Carpenter, and the occasional scare.

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