My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I've Seen "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" and Here Is What I Think

"The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the work of the devil." - 1 John 3:8

Many of you have perhaps seen the new movie called The Exorcism of Emily Rose. It appears to be doing well at the box office as a fall release. It has attracted the attention of the media, in part, because the director is a professing Christian and the movie is based upon a true account.
This week's WORLD magazine has an interview with Scott Derrickson, the director. Today, I went to see it and in my evaluation, it is a very good movie.

As the title suggests, a girl named Emily Rose is possessed by evil spirits. This occurs while she is away for her freshman year of college. The priest who eventually performs her exorcism is on trial for negligent homicide (or something like that). I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but that is the initial setup.

The movie is a mixture of the genres of horror and courtroom drama. The trial is taking place in the present with the scenes of Emily's possession and exorcism shown as flashbacks. It has some genuinely scary moments and disturbing images. But if you go expecting to see a typical gross-out bloodfest or tons of computer generated special effects, you will be disappointed.

The cast was excellent. Laura Linney plays the agnostic defense attorney for Father Moore, played by Tom Wilkenson. Campbell Scott is the devoutly Methodist prosecutor. And Jennifer Carpenter excelled in the title role. In particular, I must single out Wilkenson and Carpenter.

It was so heartening to see a Roman Catholic priest portrayed in a major Hollywood film so sympathetically and believably. And there is nothing less secularized or rationalistic than showing a priest performing an exorcism. Wilkenson's Father Moore is intelligent, compassionate, and devout. He is also articulate and courageous.

And Jennifer Carpenter. . . what can I say? I almost wondered if she really was possessed. It was creepy, but she and the director exercised just the right amount of restraint with her character. I really felt sorry for the girl she played and then came to admire her.

I'm a fan of Billy Friedkin's 1973 film adaptation of William Peter Blatty's book The Exorcist. But I am tempted to say that this was a better movie. I really liked the less sensationalist approach. Y'know the spinning head and pea soup projectile vomiting was a bit much. Plus, honestly, this movie is just less disgusting all round. Less blaspemous language, less sexual perversity, etc. Now that may be a mark against it in terms of realism. But I think if you are trying to make a film to convince the average Joe that there is more to life than Horatio's philosophy (as Shakespeare's Dane would say), going too far with the spectacle can be distracting.

One criticism I would level at the director is that I hate it when horror movies just try to startle you with a sudden loud noise or someone jumping out from behind a door. And it's not because I don't like to be startled - because actually I kinda do - but because it's low brow. If you can't frighten me with the story, the plot or the characterizations, then forget about it. Don't jump at me and yell, "Boo!"

There are some theological deviations here and there. I wouldn't say it is a Christ-centered story. The article of justification is never articulated. Alone, it will not convert anyone.

But here is why I believe this film, and others like it, are important. It treats Christian doctrine and the Christian church with respect. And it promotes the idea that there are spiritual realities in the universe we inhabit. In an increasingly secularist age, it is helpful to instill the belief that some things cannot be explained by science or dissected under a microscope. And though it doesn't give the explanation of how, it is clearly shown that the Christian Church holds the key to salvation.

But I will go further and say that I appreciated the movie because it is about Satan. And it's not a farce or an exploitive caricature of Satan. No, this is the real deal. The two errors people can fall into with regard to the devil is to think about him too much or to think about him too little. For those who think about him too little, consider that Jesus spoke about Satan and hell quite a bit. Most of what we know about hell comes from the mouth of Jesus Christ.

If I were an average Joe, someone who generally considered himself a Christian but didn't attend church or pay much attention to religion, I think this movie would get under my skin. And that appears to have been the express intention of the director. Movies like this would make me afraid to go to hell. And that would be useful progress for many people, even some people who sit numbly in our pews week after week.

Sphere: Related Content


Kelly Klages said...

"The two errors people can fall into with regard to the devil is to think about him too much or to think about him too little."

Someone's been reading their intro to Screwtape Letters. =o)

CPA said...

I look forward to seeing the movie.

There's a book by Felicitas Goodman "How About Demons?" which is really a fascinating exploration of the whole world of demon possession (welcome and unwelcome). What is surprising is how much her book illuminates Christian teaching about possession, although she appears not to be a Christian, but rather a secular scholar who just finally couldn't deny the evidence staring her in the face.

New Curriculum at Concordia Theological Seminary