The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a 2005 American courtroom drama-horror film directed by Scott Derrickson. The film is loosely based on the book “The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel”  a true story written by author Felicitas D. Goodman, about of a God-fearing German-born child, Anneliese Michel who lived her life around good old-fashioned Roman Catholic devotion.

Anneliese Michel

Even her dormitory at the University of  Würzburg (in what used to be West Germany), seemed much like a Holy Sepulcher in Rome. A young and pretty student, she was quite pious and surrounded herself with statuettes of all her favorite saints, and adorned her dorm walls with their pictures. She even kept a holy-water near the front door to cross herself with when she left the confines of her dormitory before she left for school. Carrying her books in a shoulder bag, she often clutched a Rosary and offered prayer on her way to class. Considered timid, she was said to be intensely afraid of people, and at times of life itself; even her thesis focused on the “Phenomenon of fear.” Then, only one month after turning that thesis over to her professor, Anneliese died in family’s home in Klingenberg, where she lived before going off to University at the age of 23. Her body bruised, cut, and broken; wasted down to nothing but skin and bones.

Emily Rose

The case follows the true to life story of Emily Rose, as it follows a self-proclaimed agnostic defense lawyer representing a parish priest who is accused by the state of negligent homicide after he performed an exorcism. The film, which largely takes place in a courtroom, depicts the events leading up to and including the exorcism through a series of flashbacks.

The American Plot

The nineteen years old Catholic college girl Emily Rose dies a couple of days after being submitted to an exorcism carried out by her parish priest, Father Moore. Emily believed she was possessed by six demons, and although authorized by Emily and her parents, Father Moore is accused of negligent homicide, because he had suggested interrupting Emily’s use of epilepsy medications. In order to avoid a church scandal, the Archdiocese hires the successful, ambitious, and agnostic lawyer Erin Bruner to defend Father Moore, and the prosecution assigns their religious prosecutor Ethan Thomas. The entire case, lasting several days, is more of a trial between science and religion in a people’s court. Roger Ebert, a popular American movie critic, described The Exorcism of Emily Rose as “intriguing and perplexing”, the film “asks a secular institution, the court, to decide a question that hinges on matters the court cannot have an opinion on”. Ebert noted that “the screenplay is intelligent and open to occasional refreshing wit”. Paul Arendt from BBC outlined that “the flashback story… is high-octane schlock that occasionally works your nerves, thanks to a committed performance from Jennifer Carpenter”.

The Production

The screenplay was written by director Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman; with performances by Laura Linney as defense attorney Erin Christine Bruner, Jennifer Carpenter as Emily Rose, Campbell Scott as prosecuting attorney Ethan Thomas, and Tom Wilkinson as Father Richard Moore. The Exorcism of Emily Rose in the 2006 was listed by the Chicago Film Critics Association as one their Top 100 Scariest Films Ever Made at #86. Actress Jennifer Carpenter, whose “demonic” bodily contortions were often achieved without the aid of visual effects, won “Best Frightened Performance” at the MTV Movie Awards.