Entertainment Weekly - 09/15/2005
"The devil is strictly Linda Blair-era old school in THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, an intelligent inquiry into the limitations of belief and faith as a defense in a court of law..."
Based on a true story, this film is both a riveting courtroom drama and a first class chiller. A Catholic Priest (Tom Wilkinson) is on trial for homicidal negligence after performing a failed exorcism on Emily Rose, devout college girl (Jennifer Carpenter) now dead from assorted wounds and malnutrition. Laura Linney plays Erin Bruner, the priest's defense lawyer, and Campbell Scott plays the chief prosecutor, who argues persuasively that Emily was likely suffering from psychotic epilepsy and could have been saved with hospitalization and medicine. The demonic possession unfolds in a series of spine-tingling flashbacks and as it does so, the initially doubtful Erin is visited by evil forces and her own soul seems to be at stake. More than a criminal negligence case, the trial becomes about the importance of recognizing the limits of rationality and the possibility of a world beyond the visible. In portraying the extent to which wildly different belief systems have splintered modern society this film couldn't be more relevant or timely. Linney and Campbell are first rate, as is to be expected, creating great depth for their characters even though the script grants them almost no personal lives; it's a very "stick to the facts" sort of tale. Each character lives a life of apparent near-isolation, which adds to the cumulative effect of unease. The house where Emily grows up is spookily oppressive, the scenes of possession are truly scary and a dark sense of foreboding may follow viewers long after the credits have rolled. Carpenter earns a place as a 21st century scream queen with her hair-raising, fearless performance; Mary Beth Hurt plays the judge.