The Exorcism of Emily Rose

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The Exorcism of Emily Rose
Theatrical release poster
Directed byScott Derrickson
Produced by
Written by
  • Scott Derrickson
  • Paul Harris Boardman
Music byChristopher Young
CinematographyTom Stern
Edited byJeff Betancourt
Distributed byScreen Gems
Release date
  • September 9, 2005 (2005-09-09)
Running time
121 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$19.3 million
Box office$144.2 million

The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a 2005 American supernatural horror crime film directed by Scott Derrickson and starring Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson. The film is loosely based on the story of Anneliese Michel and follows a self-proclaimed agnostic (Linney) who acts as defense counsel representing a parish priest (Wilkinson), accused by the state of negligent homicide after he performed an exorcism.


Emily Rose, a 19-year-old American teenager, dies of self-inflicted wounds and malnutrition following an attempted exorcism. Father Richard Moore, the Catholic diocesan priest who attempted the exorcism, is arrested and sent to court. While the archdiocese want Moore to plead guilty to minimize the crime's public attention, Moore instead plans to plead not guilty. Erin Bruner, an ambitious lawyer hoping to use the trial to become a senior partner in her law firm, takes on the case. Moore agrees to let her defend him if he can tell the truth behind Emily's story.

During the trial, Emily's past is told through flashbacks and the evidence provided by witnesses. Presiding over the trial is Judge Brewster, with Ethan Thomas, a practicing Methodist, serving as prosecutor; the prosecution claims Emily suffered from epilepsy and psychosis to explain her behavior. Emily received a scholarship to study for a bachelor's degree but displayed signs of demonic possession after she began attending classes, experiencing visions and physical contortions. Diagnosed with epilepsy, Emily received anti-seizure medication but the treatment failed to cure her. A friend named Jason took Emily back home to her family, where she continued displaying traits of possession until Moore was summoned to attempt an exorcism.

Bruner begins experiencing supernatural phenomena at home, waking up at 3:00 a.m. to the smell of burning material. Moore warns her she may be a target for the demons, revealing he too has experienced similar phenomena on the night he was preparing the exorcism. With the prosecution building a strong case, Bruner steps up her own by trying to legitimize Emily's possession, she summons anthropologist Sadira Adani to testify about the beliefs about spiritual possession from various cultures, but Thomas dismisses her claims as nonsense. Graham Cartwright, a medical doctor who attended the exorcism, gives Bruner a cassette tape on which the exorcism was recorded.

Moore is called to the stand where he plays the tape; as seen in a flashback, Moore, Emily's father, Jason, and Dr. Cartwright participate in the exorcism while her mother and sisters pray in the living room. During the Lord's Prayer, Emily attacks, causing the family cats to become agitated and attack Moore; as Jason and Cartwright help Moore, Emily escapes from her restraints, leaps out of a window, and flees to the family barn. The others give chase, Moore continuing the exorcism and demanding to know the demon's name, it responds by revealing there are six demons – those who possessed Cain, Nero, and Judas Iscariot, a member of Legion, Belial, and Lucifer himself. The exorcism abruptly ends when the men render aid to Emily's father, injured by runaway horses. Thomas reasons that Emily's behavior can be explained by learning ancient languages at school and her epilepsy.

Cartwright agrees to testify to authenticate the exorcism and refute the prosecution's medical care. However, he fails to appear at his allotted time, and Bruner goes looking for him. Seconds after finding Cartwright, the doctor is fatally struck by a car. A distraught Bruner retreats to her office wherein her boss threatens her with termination if she allows Moore to testify again. Bruner visits Moore in his jail cell, where he convinces her to allow him to tell the rest of Emily's story despite her boss's threat.

The next day, Moore takes the witness stand again and reads a letter that Emily wrote before she died. A flashback reveals that on the morning after the exorcism, Emily was visited by the Virgin Mary in a field near her house. Offered a choice between ascending to Heaven or remaining to become a martyr but prove the existence of God and demons, Emily chose the latter. Moore explains she then received stigmata on her hands, but Thomas claims she gained the markings from grabbing a barbed wire fence surrounding the Rose family farm.

The jury ultimately reaches a verdict of guilty but surprise the court by asking Judge Brewster to give a sentence of time served. Although momentarily shocked by the suggestion, she ultimately accepts it, and Father Moore is free to go. Bruner is offered the position she wanted, but declines. Later, Moore and Bruner pay a visit to Emily's grave wherein the former states that the time will come wherein Emily will be declared a saint.



The screenplay was written by director Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman; in honor of the contributions of Boardman and other collaborators on the film, Derrickson chose to forgo the traditional "film by" credit. According to Derrickson's DVD commentary, he chose Boardman as his co-writer because Derrickson sees himself as a believer and Boardman as a skeptic, and believed the pairing would provide the screenplay with two different perspectives, thus providing the film some ambiguity as to whether it supports a religious/supernatural interpretation of the events depicted, or a more secular/medical interpretation.

The character of Emily Rose was inspired by the story of Anneliese Michel.[1] German director Hans-Christian Schmid made his own film of Michel's story, Requiem, around the same time in late 2006. Linney recommended Carpenter for this role after working with her in a play.[2]


Box office[edit]

According to Box Office Mojo, The Exorcism of Emily Rose made $75,072,454 domestically, and $144,216,468 worldwide.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 44%, based on 157 reviews; the site's critical consensus reads "Loosely based on a true story, The Exorcism of Emily Rose mixes compelling courtroom drama with generally gore-free scares in a ho-hum take on demonic cinema".[4] On Metacritic, it has an overall score of 46 out of 100, based on 32 reviews.[5]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a rating of three out of four stars, describing it as "intriguing and perplexing" and writing that "the screenplay is intelligent and open to occasional refreshing wit".[6] Paul Arendt of BBC also gave the film three out of five stars, referring to the "flashback story" as "high-octane schlock that occasionally works your nerves, thanks to a committed performance from Jennifer Carpenter".[7] Olly Richards of Empire gave the film three out of five stars as well, writing that "Viewed as a horror movie, Emily Rose isn't much scarier than the average, but combined with intelligent and balanced courtroom drama it has more to offer than your usual big-lunged, big-breasted screamer".[8]

Jerome Reuter of Scream magazine gave the film a rating of two out of five stars, writing that "The Exorcism of Emily Rose, while compelling at times, is nothing more than a blatant attempt to utilise a real human tragedy for an agenda".[9] Ed Gonzalez of Slant Magazine gave the film one-and-a-half out of four stars, criticizing the "witless, didactic" screenplay and writing that "I've witnessed more complicated existential wrangling exchanged between two tokers".[10]

In 2006, the Chicago Film Critics Association listed the film in their Top 100 Scariest Films Ever Made at #86.[11] Jennifer Carpenter, whose "demonic" bodily contortions were often achieved without the aid of visual effects, won "Best Frightened Performance" at the MTV Movie Awards in 2006.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hansen, Eric T. (September 4, 2005). "What in God's Name?!". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  2. ^ "Story Notes for The Exorcism of Emily Rose". AMC Networks. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  3. ^ "The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  4. ^ "The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  5. ^ "The Exorcism of Emily Rose". Metacritic. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (September 8, 2005). "The Exorcism of Emily Rose Movie Review (2005)". Retrieved December 20, 2010.
  7. ^ Arendt, Paul (November 24, 2005). "BBC - Movies - review - The Exorcism of Emily Rose". BBC. Retrieved December 20, 2010.
  8. ^ Richards, Olly. "The Exorcism Of Emily Rose Review". Empire. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  9. ^ Reuter, Jerome (March 31, 2018). "THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE: Film Review". Scream. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  10. ^ Gonzalez, Ed (September 6, 2006). "Review: The Exorcism of Emily Rose". Slant Magazine. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  11. ^ "Top 100 Scariest Movies". Archived from the original on January 17, 2008. Retrieved February 21, 2009.
  12. ^ "Movie Awards 2006 - MTV Movie Awards". MTV. June 8, 2006. Retrieved July 2, 2019.

External links[edit]