brazilrascal (brazilrascal) wrote in atheism,

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

((Movie Review, but it deals a lot with issues of faith and rationalism, so I believe it qualifies for this community.))

It's been some time since I watched this movie on a theather, but the overwhelming badness of it still makes my mouth taste sour.

It's an entirely conceptual fuck-up, too. The movie is rather well-made. No actors glance at the camera, the boom mike doesn't flash overhead and lines are spoken at their proper times.

Perhaps in a world that had never seen "The Exorcist", this might have been a passing movie., I take that back. Say what you want about the Exorcist, about it being outdated now, a gross-out fest, but it was a BOLD movie. It pictured a sweet little girl suffering horrible supernatural punishment without one grandstanding line about how it was justified in the end, how it served a purpose.

Not here. "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" doesn't take a side for good against evil. It enthusiastically throws its hat in for Faith versus Reason. In the typical knee-jerk christian way, it -tries- to present a debate of sorts, meaning that snooty Yale scientists will get to play assholes and snobs for 1.2 minute, revealing how impersonal, cold and non-cuddly rationalism is.

And the lead character, the middle-aged blonde lawyer woman initially willing to tap dance on Gradma's throat for a position in the's -brilliant- in its cheesy way. Will she let what she is vicariously witnessing enter her cold, money-grubbing heart and make her a believer? Will she or won't she? Aren't you dying to know?

The quick and dirty: Emily Rose is a girl living in her family house back in the Swinging 60's. Said family appear to be snow farmers, since their farm is in the FUCKING BLEAKEST PLACE ON EARTH. Seriously, it's all gray and white and mist and post-gothic rotten wood. In a particular shot, you can see the cast of all Silent Hill games running in the background, along with Siouxsie and the Banshees and  Morrisey. And the inside of the place? I'm not one to notice this, my friends, but please...before anything else, catch the demon that possessed Mom and made her decorate the place that way.

Sweet, homely Emily gets accepted into college in the Big City. Write this down, girls: seeking an education in evil secular institutions invites demonic possession. Aprons beat diplomas.

Exactly 4 seconds into her first class, Emily starts seeing freaky things, losing control of her body, being assaulted by unspeakable sensations...well, freshman year at college. We've been there.

We learn early in the movie that Emily has kicked the bucket. Her scenes are all flashbacks after her agonizing, demon-inflicted demise. The other half is a courtroom drama so bad it ripped the paint off the movie theater walls. The catholic priest that tried to eject Emily's hellish shotgun rider get charged with killing her, since he convinced her to stop taking he rpsychiatric drugs so that exorcism would work better. The movie offers a twisted explanation of this, one so vile that I think I left three fingernails embedded in the arms of the chair there. They get a nicely sciency-sounding Indian lady to claim that it was the drugs that made the exorcism fail, because the brain must be pure and unaltered for the God Rays to cleanse it from Lucifer.

What kind of almighty God is thwarted from his drive to save kids by fucking -medicine-?

GOD/ALLAH/YAHWEH: Oh, crap! Lucifer is throwing Hell week inside a virgin gal's noggin'! Time to get my savior mojo working and...hmm, what's this? She's on Nyquil! Damn, that's no good. Nobody can't say I didn't try, though....Hey, Lost is on!

The movie tries way too damn hard. Everyone onscreen is a caricature: zealous priest, shark-like prosecutor, morally inert Law executives, and the tough-but-fair black woman judge (*snerk* In the SIXTIES??? What is it with Hollywwod trying to re-format the past by seeding it with black and female authority figures where they simply didn't exist?). It doesn't take long for it to become a laugh riot, meaning I coud riff it alound inside the very theather with impunity.

In fact, during a scene in which Emily is sleeping with her boyfriend (because she's -scared-, you pervs. Said BF is a decent believer type that obviously wouldn't want to fuck naive Emily, not until joined in holy matrimony and after their second child is safely on its way to sunday school.) He wakes up in the middle of the night, alone in bed...and looks down to see Emily on the floor, twisted like a burnt scorpion.

ME: *BF's voice* Ohh, so you're into Yoga, honney? How cool!

Usually, that gets you a mid-sized soda cup (which means huge-sized soda cup) in the back of the head, but this time it was met with chuckling applause. Even better, through the rest of the movie the whole audience was guffawing and making jests, a massive impromptu session of MST3K.

Helped, of course, by the fact that the movie is not scary. Not one bit. It friends, how it tries. But it's too pedantic in its message, too self-important.

Case 1: Lawyer-girl wakes up at 3 AM, slightly spooked. She hears freaky groaning noises...somewhere. So she walks out of her bedroom, through the hall, the living room and kitchen...WITHOUT TURNING ON A SINGLE LIGHT. Fuck you, director. I know you want to be all noir and use the blue-black shadowy textures, but no one does this. Not on LSD.

Case 2: Lawyer-girl is talking to a doctor that witnessed the exorcism. Like her, he is a former-skeptic, now scared-shitless believer. They are talking in a frozen park, and at one point in the conversation, a pigeon takes flight nearby.

This earns four seconds of Fright Shot, as if a Lovecraftian Nightmare aberration had just coiled around the characters' shadows. It -might- have worked if it had been subtle...pigeons -way- in the background, taking flight as one when the conversation subject turns darker. Here, it's pornographic: mention Satan, camera dive-shots on flying pigeon, doctor turns pale as a sheet, lawyer is stunned, all revealed in close-up. It's a wonder they didn't jump into each other's arms like Scoobie-Doo and Shaggy.

Case 3: At one point during the exorcism proper. Satan summons kittens to fight off the godly helpers. Kittens. I'll freely admit that cats are evil minions of doom, but And again, this is treated as if it was pulse-pounding terrifying. A horde of napalm gargoyles wailing the seven names of the Beast has nothing on KITTENS, you fools!

And when you think you've been insulted enough, that you're prepared for the remaining crappiness, the movie throws the ending at you. I think this may be a cinematic feat in itself; a way to piss off everyone, without exception. Someone notify the Library of Congress.

It comes down to this (Spoiler): Is the priest guilty or innocent? He can't be openly proclaimed innocent, because the obvious consequences and legal precedent would be people sueing each other for casting the Evil Eye, claiming they only raped that model because Belzeebub made them, and so on. On the other hand, he can't also be coldly sent to the Palace of Striped Sunlight, jailed as a killer. After all, didn't we see how he cared for Emily? Didn't we WITNESS him fighting the forces of Hell in all their pigeon-flying, kitten-sneaking horror? And poor Emily, all bent and crying and speaking in tongues?

So the movie takes the impossibly bad middle ground. The preist is considered...guilty. Sentence? Time served. He is free. All the fear and pain of losing Emily is penance enough, the jury decides.

Now, this makes me mad. No jokes here. It's the typical fundamentalist weasel-way of having it both ways, a society of laws and medicine and iPods AND the ability to claim their superstitions are real and affect everyone, that they can stand unchallenged in a court of law. Sure, he's guilty. No, it doesn't matter, because...the Devil! Evil! Bow your heads and repent! This is a pitifully christian movie, all the more infuriating because it tries to wear the skin of a fair portrayal.

Final twist of the knife: in his closing statement, the priest says that Emily was offered salvation by none other than God himself, and refused it. You see, Yahweh told her that if she returned to her possessed body to die a wailing, shit-encrusted, flesh-tearing death that takes weeks to run its course, she'll become a symbol of faith, a martyr that proves His existence.

Now this was a genuinely scary moment; the thought that someone might BUY this asinine throw of the dice. It's an almost Shii'te turn of events: Yay! martyrs! This is the philosophy that makes suicide bombers possible, folks. I dare you to find me two meaningful differences. And that is leaving aside the obvious question: what kind of all-loving, almighty God can't make his presence known but for the sacrifice of young girls? Did he lose his Old Testament spunk, the touch that made him come down from Heaven as a bellowing pillar of fire, filling the skies with moral rectitude if someone so much as sliced a foreskin the wrong way?

Bad movie, worst message. I was proud at my fellow brazilian movie-goers for laughing at it. Perhaps there's hope for us after all.

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