The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

The Exorcism of Emily RoseErin Bruner is a lawyer filled with ambition, who takes on the case of a Catholic diocesan priest who is charged with negligent homicide following an attempted exorcism on a 19-year old girl, Emily Rose. The archdiocese wants the priest, Father Richard Moore, to just plead guilty so they can scuffle this under the carpet and do as much damage control as possible, but Moore won’t have it, and pleads not guilty. He is determined to tell Emily’s story. Bruner then starts experiencing strange things on her own, like waking up at 3 a.m. to the smell of something burning. Moore warns her that she might have become a target for demons, and through bits and pieces we get to know Emily’s story.


The Exorcism of Emily Rose was written and directed by Scott Derrickson and co-written by Paul Harris Boardman. Derrickson actually chose to use Boardman as his co-writer because, with himself being a believer and Boardman a skeptic, he thought this would balance the screenplay with enough realism from both perspectives. And I dare say this was probably a very good decision, as the movie does a solid job on walking the line between religion and science, constantly making you wonder if she really was possessed or just terribly mentally disturbed.


The movie is told with some back-and-forth between the trial and the lawyer-related stuff, and flashbacks from Emily’s life. What makes this movie different from the plethora of other demonic possession movies, is its blend between courtroom drama and the supernatural, carefully balancing between the two and offering enough for both believers and skeptics to hold on to. The movie is inspired by the true story of Anneliese Michel from Germany. There’s actually another film based on this story, called Requiem, which is more based on the, well…actual true events. The young German woman was born in 1952, and died in 1976 after she underwent 67 (!) exorcisms. She died of malnutrition, and her parents and the priest were convicted of negligent homicide. Just like the Conjuring movies, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is best viewed as pure fiction with a few slices of truth, otherwise it would just become completely convoluted with thoughts of what is obviously invented for the purpose of scares in the movie, and what’s inspired from the true events. The true story was indeed a religion vs science trial regarding the aftermath, but the backstory of Emily Rose (Anneliese Michel) is very loosely based on what really happened. I guess in that sense, it’s wise to not even have the character named after her to make the distinction even more obvious.


Jennifer Carpenter, who is playing the role of Emily Rose, does nothing but a stellar performance as the struggling/sick/possessed young girl, and does so with some pretty chilling possession scenes that are bereft of any pea soup vomiting or head twisting. In order to prepare for her role, Jennifer actually spent hours in a room full of mirrors while trying out different body positions and facial expressions to see what was scariest. Many of the scenes where Emily is experiencing the effects of her “possession”, it is still very much left in the open whether it’s really demons causing it, or a result of her mentally disturbed mind. Feel free to take your pick on which is the scariest alternative.


There’s a ton of chilling atmosphere and a lot of subtle creative details that add to the creepy vibe. The actors did a stellar job by providing convincing performances, and the courtroom drama manages to add both suspense and ties in with the rest in a way that makes it feel wholesome. With the movie being a bit old, some of the CGI (which there isn’t much of anyway) is perhaps a little outdated, but not at all bad and it’s being sparsely which doesn’t affect anything negatively. The Exorcism of Emily Rose stands out as a solid and chilling possession horror movie which has aged quite well, and provided a well founded start on Derrickson’s horror movie career (with him later giving us movies like Sinister, Deliver Us From Evil, and The Black Phone). And no matter whether you consider the story as one of demonic possession or mental illness, the result is equally creepy and frightening.


The Exorcism of Emily Rose The Exorcism of Emily Rose The Exorcism of Emily Rose


Director: Scott Derrickson
Paul Harris Boardman, Scott Derrickson
Country & year: USA, 2005
Actors: Jennifer Carpenter, Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Campbell Scott, Colm Feore, Joshua Close, Kenneth Welsh, Duncan Fraser, JR Bourne, Mary Beth Hurt, Henry Czerny, Shohreh Aghdashloo



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The Black Phone (2022)

The year is 1978, and the streets of a seemingly sleepy Denver suburb is prowled by a serial killer nicknamed The Grabber, who mockingly leaves black balloons in the places of abduction. We follow the daily life of siblings Finney and Gwen, who lives with their abusive alcoholic father. School is tough on the timid boy Finney, where he is frequently bullied and harassed, only occasionally getting saved by his badass friend Bruce. However, one day Bruce is abducted by The Grabber, and Gwen starts having psychic dreams regarding his kidnapping. Only days later, Finney encounters what at first appears to be a clumsy magician who needs his help, but when the boy notices the black balloons inside the magician’s truck, it’s already too late and he becomes another abductee. When Finney wakes up, he finds himself trapped in a small soundproofed basement, with a disconnected black phone hanging on the wall. His abductor is the terrifying mask-wearing “Grabber”, who appears to be playing some kind of game which Finney knows will eventually lead to his death…just like with all the other kids that were kidnapped and murdered before him. Unexpectedly, help comes from the ominous, disconnected black phone which starts ringing and gives Finney phone calls from the world of the dead…


The Black Phone is directed by Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister, Deliver Us From Evil), and is based on a short story by Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son). After Deliver Us From Evil, which was released on 2014, Scott was absent from horror movie directing for a while as he was working on the Doctor Strange movie, so his comeback into this genre was long awaited. The story starts off a little slowly as we get to know the youths and prepare for the inevitable, and once Finney gets kidnapped a lot of the movie unfolds mainly in the bare-bones basement as he tries to escape and avoid playing the serial killer’s sadistic game, aided by the previous victims who contacts him through the black phone. There are some creepy scenes and the setting is atmospheric enough, although it never really breaks the surface of becoming truly scary. It is mostly the performances that really carries the movie, especially the child actors, and of course, the serial killer himself.


The Grabber’s creepy masks are made up of several parts, each exposing different portions of his face and giving a variation in expressions. The mask was designed by makeup artist Tom Savini. Ethan Hawke plays The Grabber in his first villain role (in stark contrast to the worried family man he plays in Sinister), and he does an admirably good job on portraying the crazy and unpredictable serial killer with his various facial expressions portrayed through the use of masks, body language and tone of voice. The Grabber is someone who obviously can’t be reasoned with, and while we do not really get to know all that much about him, that actually adds to the creep factor. And while the supernatural elements aren’t even remotely scary, they help powering up the direction of the story, working more as part of the suspense component rather than the horror. We root for the boy trapped in the creepy basement, and the ghosts who try to help him.


Overall, The Black Phone is a welcome horror comeback for Scott Derrickson. It’s not really a very unique or original movie, but it’s a solid and tense horror thriller that’s well worth a watch.


The Black Phone


Director: Scott Derrickson
Writers: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Country & year: USA, 2022
Actors: Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Davies, E. Roger Mitchell, Troy Rudeseal, James Ransone, Miguel Cazarez Mora, Rebecca Clarke, J. Gaven Wilde, Spencer Fitzgerald



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Sinister (2012)

Ellison Oswalt is a true crime writer who moves into a new home with his wife and two children. What he has not told his family prior to moving into the house, however, is that an entire family was murdered there by hanging, and his intention is to write a book about this case. This is something he does in the hopes of regaining his lost fame, as his latest works weren’t very popular and he’s desperate for a new success. There was also a little girl who disappeared following the murders, and he hopes to learn more about her fate so he can include this mystery in his novel. Upon exploring the attic of the house, he finds a box with several reels of Super 8 footage, which are simply labeled as “home movies”. Using the projector which was also located in the attic, he discovers that the films are footage of several families being murdered, all of them filmed by an unseen camera operator. Upon investigation these cases he finds similarities that makes him suspect that both the murders in the house he now inhabits, and the ones from the Super 8 footage, are connected in a sinister way, and dates all the way back to the 1960’s…


Sinister is a 2012 horror movie directed by Scott Derrickson (who will have a new movie hitting the theaters soon, The Black Phone). Scott Derrickson had previously shown his competence in the horror field with Hellraiser: Inferno (his debut film) and later The Exorcism of Emily Rose (which was based on the story of Anneliese Michel).


Sinister is for the most part a highly effective and creepy film, with a steadily growing sense of unease without tossing a bunch of jumpscares at you. There are some genuinely hair-raising moments here, led by solid performances, and the opening scene alone sets the tone right away where we witness the Super 8 footage of the family being hanged. This scene was actually all played by stuntmen, and almost went terribly wrong: when the scene was first done, the stunt coordinator botched the preparations for the scene resulting in the actors being legitimately hanged and choked. Yikes! Fortunately they all survived, and naturally the coordinator got sacked. This wasn’t the only potentially harmful scene either: one of the other “footage” films included a family tied to chairs and pulled underwater, and the filmmakers had to be extremely careful so nobody was harmed while the filming of the scene took place. All of these scenes were also filmed on real Super 8 films camera.


Overall, Sinister is a solidly crafted horror film with loads of atmosphere and a really creepy feel, where some parts are actually outright scary. While it does not have any nudity, very little blood and no cursing because they were aiming for a PG-13 release, it still got an R rating just for the content alone. It is now 10 years since its release, and it’s still one of the most decently crafted horror films from this period.




Director: Scott Derrickson
Writers: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Country & year: USA, UK, Canada 2012
Actors: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Fred Thompson, James Ransone, Michael Hall D’Addario, Clare Foley, Rob Riley, Tavis Smiley, Janet Zappala, Victoria Leigh, Cameron Ocasio, Ethan Haberfield



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