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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Exorcism of Emily Rose (Blu-ray)
The Exorcism of Emily Rose (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures // Unrated // July 22, 2008 // Region A
List Price: $28.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted July 19, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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The Movie:

Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter) is young woman of devout Catholic faith and a seemingly normal college student on the outside, but she's got a rather unusual problem - she believes that she is possessed by a demon. Not wanting to spend her life as a tool of the devil, she examines her options and talks to some doctors and experts but it's all to no avail. Soon, her family convinces a local priest, Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson) to perform an exorcism to rid her of the demon that haunts her soul, but sadly she dies while under their care.

As if the guilt of the incident weren't enough, Father Moore is brought in on charges of criminal negligence by prosecuting attorney Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott). These charges attest that he is the one responsible for Emily's death. The only thing he really has on his side is his faith and his attorney, Erin Bruner (Laura Linney) - though she doesn't share his faith and sees things very practically. As the trial unfolds, the story of Emily Rose comes to light through an interesting debate that discusses faith, science, and the logistics of possession and the act of exorcism itself.

Based on the true story of Anneliese Michel who really did die of starvation after an exorcism in the seventies, The Exorcism Of Emily Rose is an intelligent and thought provoking film that hits the right blend of drama, intrigue, intelligent debate, and genuine scares. The comparisons to William Friedkin's The Exorcist are, I suppose, inevitable but director Scott Derrickson (of Hellraiser: Inferno) has crafted a truly unique film that will stick with you for a while long after the end credits have rolled past. The way that the events that take place in the first third of the film are laid out and analyzed in the later two thirds of the movie may not appeal to those looking for a traditional scare-fest full of things that go bump in the night and crazed throat slashing maniacs but it does work in an original and intelligent manner. As the lawyers debate the case, we're pulled into the discussion ourselves and Derrickson wisely allows us to think alongside the lawyers as the case unravels rather than bombard us with the results.

With all the focus on the court room, what about the exorcism itself? Well, it delivers. The first part of the film does play out as a more traditional horror film would, as do the flashback's to Emily's ordeal. They're creepy, atmospheric, and full of strange lighting and imagery. The sound design for these scenes is also quite intense, using the surrounds to build up the effects and the score to maximize the mood. With that in mind, The Exorcism Of Emily Rose is definitely not without it's horror movie elements but to label it as just another clone of Friedkin's film (of which there are many, most of which, quite frankly, kind of suck) is completely unfair. These scenes definitely pack a punch though, and regardless of how you feel about the direction that the film goes in, there's no denying that powerful moments like these punctuate the film very effectively.

Performance wise, we're in very good hands. Tom Wilkinson is excellent as Father Moore. He's completely believable as the priest and does a fine job with the material (though would a priest really say 'The game is on'?). As one would expect, Campbell Scott is also quite good as the prosecuting attorney out to get him - he's quite a bastard in the film and he does a good job of bringing his character's nastiness to the screen. Laura Linney's strengths lie in the way that she shows her character as 'strictly business' and it's the evolution that this character goes through that is half the fun of the story. She's good in the part, but the real star of the show is Jennifer Carpenter who plays Emily herself. Her work in the film is very strong and she's completely and utterly sympathetic and frightening at the same time. The possession scenes work as well as they do not just because of the skillful work done behind the camera, but mainly because of her work in front of it and choosing her for the lead was an expert decision.

While the court room aspect could potentially bore genre fans out looking for a cheap thrill (the look and feel of these scenes is quite dull when compared to the exorcism scenes, and despite the excellent performances they could be misconstrued as boring by those who aren't into legal battles or L.A. Law style entertainment), The Exorcism Of Emily Rose proves to be a very clever film that delivers some scares but more importantly makes you think about your own faith and your own beliefs. A little more background on Emily as a person and a little bit of trimming during some of the lawyer versus lawyer sequences would have helped make it a more enveloping film but as it stands in this unrated version (which restores three minutes of legal footage excised to trim the running time) it is a strong film that deserves the success it has enjoyed thus far.



The Exorcism Of Emily Rose arrives on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio courtesy of a 1080p AVC 2.40.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This film was shot using a very cool color palette and lots of darker colors make up the landscape of the film so it would be unrealistic to expect the movie to really 'pop' in the way that some HD transfers do. That said, this transfer does do a very good job of replicating the look of the film. There's a welcome coat of very fine grain noticeable in a couple of scenes and plenty of detail in the foreground and the background of the picture. There aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts though a little bit of slight edge enhancement can be seen in a couple of spots. Skin tones look very lifelike and natural and black levels stay nice and solid. Overall, while this isn't a quite a reference quality transfer, it's certainly a very good one and a noticeable improvement over the standard definition release. A very nice effort on Sony's part.


Dolby TrueHD 5.1 48 kHz Surround Sound tracks are available in English, French and Portuguese while standard Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks are available in Thai and Spanish. Subtitles are provided in English, English SDH, French, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, Bahasa, Thai and Chinese.

The TrueHD track on this is quite solid with nice directional effects and depth. Dialogue stays clean and clear throughout even when some of the characters are speaking in hushed tones or whispers. Bass response is strong and punchy without overdoing it and the surround channels are used effectively during the appropriate moments while they supply some subtle ambient effects during quieter parts of the movie. There aren't any issues at all with hiss or distortion and everything sounds nice and clear throughout the film. The standard definition Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also quite nice and effective but the TrueHD mix has a bit more depth and detail to it making it the clear choice.


Sony has carried over all of the extra features from the standard definition release, but they're all presented in standard definition. First up is a commentary with the director of the film, Scott Derrickson. Covering many of the bases, Derrickson talks about everything from casting decisions to how he was brought on board to direct to what makes this a director's cut of the film (again, it's roughly three minutes of cross examination footage that was cut to keep the running time down and the pacing tight - that's really all there is here). He gives us some insight into the strange colors that the film made use of during certain scenes and explains why they were needed, and he also tells us quite a bit about a lot of the research that went into making the film as accurate a representation of the true story that it was based on as possible. Derrickson comes across as a very sharp guy, his insights are interesting and intelligent, and this commentary is, quite frankly, very solid stuff.

Up next is a single deleted scene (2:41, anamorphic widescreen) that shows Erin picking up a man in a bar and heading home with him for the evening. Throwing this scene back into the film probably would have made it seem out of place and seeing as it doesn't really add much of anything to the narrative, it's not surprising that it was removed from the finished version of the film. This is available with or without optional commentary from Scott Derrickson.

Up next are a trio of documentaries that take a more in-depth look at specific aspects of the making of the film. The first documentary, Genesis Of The Story (19:48, non-anamorphic widescreen) examines the origin of the film by way of some clips from the movie, some behind the scenes footage, and some interviews with Scott Derrickson, writer/producer Paul Harris Boardman, and a few of the stars of the film including Laura Linney, Jennifer Carpenter and Tom Wilkinson. Everyone gives their reason for coming on board, stating what they liked about the material and why, and this segment does a fine job of fleshing out the pre-production side of the creation of the film. The second documentary, Casting The Film (12:23, non-anamorphic widescreen) is exactly what it sounds like - an examination of the performers chosen for specific roles. Jennifer Carpenter is given the majority of the screen time here but Linney and Wilkinson also get their due. Derrickson and Boardman are on hand here to explain what it was about each performer that scored them the part. The third and final documentary, Visual Design (18:58, non-anamorphic widescreen), is also the most interesting as it's a pretty in-depth look at the costumes, puppets (yes, puppets!) and visual effects that were conjured up for the film. The production and costume designers for the movie are here to discuss their roles in bringing it all together and there are some really interesting behind the scenes clips in here that aptly demonstrate what they're telling us about.

Rounding out the extra features are trailers for 21, Starship Troopers 3: Marauders, and a Blu-ray Is High-Definition promo spot. Animated menus and chapter selection are also included.

Final Thoughts:

While The Exorcism Of Emily Rose isn't the out and out fright fest that the advertising campaign made it out to look like, it is still an effectively creepy movie that does a great job of mixing up the unlikely pairing of demonic possession and court room drama. Sony's Blu-ray release carries over all of the extras from the standard definition release and provides a noticeable upgrade in audio/video quality. Highly Recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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