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The Exorcism of Emily Rose

Theatrical Release Poster
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Produced by Paul Harris Boardman
Gary Lucchesi
Written by Scott Derrickson
Paul Harris Boardman
Starring Laura Linney
Tom Wilkinson
Jennifer Carpenter
Campbell Scott
Shohreh Aghdashloo
Colm Feore
Mary Beth Hurt
Music by Christopher Young
Cinematography Tom Stern
Editing by Jeff Betancourt
Distributed by Sony
Release date(s) September 9, 2005
Running time 119 minutes
Language English
Budget $ 19 million

The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a 2005 horror/courtroom drama film directed by Scott Derrickson. It is generally accepted that the film is loosely based on the story of Anneliese Michel, which is stated at the end credits. However it bears little resemblance to the case of Anneliese Michel. It portrays a fictional, previously non-believing defense lawyer's overwhelmingly private experiences, that lead her to sharing the defendants belief in spiritual warfare and a Christian God. The movie, which largely takes place in a courtroom, depicts the trial of Emily's parish priest, who performed the exorcism, and who was accused by the state of negligent homicide. The movie, although mostly trial-based, shows flashbacks of the events leading up to Emily Rose's exorcism, and ultimately, her death.


Lawyer Erin Bruner (Laura Linney) takes on the church and the state when she fights in defense of a priest, Father Richard Moore (Tom Wilkinson) who performed an exorcism on a young woman, Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter). Bruner must battle the state prosecutor, as well as her own doubts, as she realizes that her career so far has not fulfilled her. She takes the case, albeit reluctantly, because she believes it will elevate her to senior partner at her law firm. Moore agrees to let her defend him only if he is allowed to tell Emily's story.

The trial begins with the calling of several medical experts by the prosecutor, Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott). One expert testifies that Emily was suffering from both epilepsy and psychosis. The defense contests that she may have actually been possessed, though Bruner is careful never to say that in so many words. Indeed, Bruner explains that Emily was suffering from something that neither medicine nor psychology could explain, and that Moore as well as her family realized this and tried to help in another way. Several flashbacks show how this began.

Alone in her dorm room one night, at 3:00 AM, Emily notices a strange burning smell coming from the hallway. When she checks on it, she sees the door open and shut by itself several times. When she goes back to her room, she sees a jar of pencils and pens move by itself. Additionally, her covers roll themselves down and a great weight seems to press down on her, a force which also proceeds to choke her. Through these episodes, she wonders if they are really happening or if they are just hallucinations. She suffers more visions, is hospitalized, and diagnosed with epilepsy. She is given anti-seizure medications, which she claims do not work. Her visions continue, as do her severe bodily contortions.

She leaves school and returns to live with her parents. She and her parents become convinced she is not epileptic or mentally ill, but is possessed by demons. They ask for their local parish priest to be called in to perform an exorcism, and the Church agrees. The prosecution argues that all this could be explained by a combination of epilepsy (the contortions) and psychosis (the visions).

Meanwhile, Bruner begins to experience strange occurrences in her apartment at 3:00 AM, including strange smells and sounds. Moore warns her that she may be targeted by demons for possibly exposing them. Later in the film he explains that 3:00 AM is the "devil's hour," which evil spirits use to mock the Holy Trinity. Significantly, it is the opposite of 3:00 PM, traditionally taken to be the hour at which Jesus died.

Seeing that the prosecution is putting up a seemingly solid medical case, Bruner decides to try to show that Emily may have actually been possessed. She calls in Dr. Sadira Adani (Shohreh Aghdashloo), a professor in anthropology and psychiatry, to testify about various cultures' beliefs about spiritual possession. Adani quotes Carlos Castaneda's A Separate Reality as means to understand the subject, and suggests that Emily was a hypersensitive. Thomas objects, and dismisses the testimony as pseudoscience.

Dr. Cartwright (Duncan Fraser), a medical doctor present during the exorcism, comes forward to reveal an audio tape made during the rite. Moore is then called to the stand to testify. The tape is played and the movie then flashes back to the exorcism. It is performed on Halloween night, because Moore believes it might be easier to draw out the demons on that night. Emily breaks her ties and jumps out the window, running into the barn. They follow her. Inside the barn, they are subjected to such phenomena as unnatural gusts of wind and demonic screams and voices. The demon inside Emily refuses to name itself after repeated demands from the presiding Father, but finally reveals contemptuously that there are not one but six demons. They go on to identify themselves in dramatic fashion, naming themselves one after another in dual voices from Emily. They identify themselves as the demons that possessed Cain, Nero, and Judas Iscariot and one of the Legion.

Nevertheless, Bruner calls Moore back to the stand the next day. He reads a letter that Emily wrote before she died. In the letter Emily describes another vision she had, the morning after the exorcism. She walks out of the house and sees an apparition of the Virgin Mary, who tells her that although the demons will not leave her, she can leave her body and end her suffering. However, the apparition goes on to say that, if Emily returns to her body, she will help to prove to the world that God and the devil are real. Emily chooses to return, concluding the letter by saying: "People say that God is dead. But how can they think that if I show them the devil?" She then receives stigmata, which Moore believes is a sign of God's love for her. Thomas counters that she could have incurred the wounds by self-injury.

Father Moore is ultimately found guilty; however, on a recommendation from the jury, the judge (Mary Beth Hurt) agrees to a sentence of time served. Bruner is offered a partnership at her firm, but she refuses and, in fact, quits. She goes with Moore to Emily's grave, where he has put a quote (which Emily recited to him the day before she died) from the second chapter twelfth verse of Philippians on her grave: "Work out your own salvation, with fear and trembling."



  • Jennifer Carpenter as Emily Rose
  • Laura Linney as Erin Christine Bruner
  • Tom Wilkinson as Father Richard Moore
  • Campbell Scott as Ethan Thomas
  • Duncan Fraser as Dr. Cartwright
  • Shohreh Aghdashloo as Dr. Sadira Adani
  • Ken Welsh as Dr. Mueller
  • Mary Black as Dr. Vogel
  • Henry Czerny as Dr. Briggs
  • J. R. Bourne as Dr.Phil
  • Joshua Close as Jason
  • Colm Feore as Karl Gunderson
  • Mary Beth Hurt as Judge Brewster
  • Andrew Wheeler as Nathaniel Rose
  • Marilyn Norry as Maria Rose


The screenplay was written by 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 true story of Anneliese Michel, a young German Catholic woman who died in 1976 after unsuccessful attempts to perform an exorcism upon her with psychotropic drugs. The court accepted the version according to which she was epileptic, refusing to accept the idea of supernatural involvement in this case. Two priests involved in the exorcism, as well as her parents, were found guilty of manslaughter resulting from negligence and received prison time (which was suspended), generating controversy. Michel's grave has become a place of pilgrimage for many Catholics who believe she atoned for wayward priests and sinful youth, and honor her as an unofficial saint.[1]

German director Hans-Christian Schmid launched his own treatment of Anneliese Michel's story, Requiem, around the same time in late 2006.

The Six Demons

1. אני הוא ששוכן בתוך קין.
I am the one who dwells within Cain!
(Ani hu sheshokhen betokh Cain.)

2. Ego sum quis habitavit in Nerone.
I am one who dwelt within Nero!

3. Mιά φορά κατοίκησε μέσα σε Ιούδας!
I dwelt within Judas!
(Mia fora katoikese mesa se Ioudas!)

4.Ich mit Legion.
I am with Legion.

5. ܐܢܐ ܒܠܝܐܝܠ.
I am Belial.
(Ana Belial.)

6. And I am Lucifer, The devil in the flesh.


As of October 31, 2008, The Exorcism of Emily Rose had made $144,216,468 worldwide.[2] In 2006, the Chicago Film Critics Association named the film the 86th scariest film ever made.[3] 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.[4] However, according to review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, critical reception to the film was overall mixed.[5]

The general consesus, between 150 critics, was that "[the film] mixes compelling courtroom drama with generally gore-free scares in a ho-hum take on demonic cinema." It holds a 45% 'fresh' approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 150 reviews. On that note, it also has an overall score of 46 out of 100, on Metacritic, based on 32 reviews.[6]

See also

  • Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers - A similar film produced by The Asylum and released in the same year
  • Requiem - German film also based on Anneliese Michel, but filmed as a drama rather than a horror film