Petals Off the Rose (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, 2005)

Exorcism_Of_Emily_Rose_PosterInspired by a real life trial from the 1970’s, The Exorcism of Emily Rose tells the story of an exorcism that resulted in the death of the possessed young woman and the priest on trial for her death.

Unlike a lot of Exorcism related films, director Scott Derrickson (making his second appearance this month) makes the heaviest focus the courtroom drama. The exorcism is done more to give us background on Emily and her situation as it pertains to the charges against Father Moore.

He is defended by agnostic lawyer Erin Bruner, who finds herself having to question if she needs to believe in God to provide the defense. Can she accept the idea that Emily’s was a spiritual affliction?

Jennifer Carpenter gives a great performance and was able to contort her body in ways to make the exorcism sequences especially harrowing.  Derrickson noted that he abandoned plans for a lot of digital effects because Carpenter was able to do so much herself.

The cast is pretty stellar for a small court room drama horror film. Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson are especially good as Lawyer and defendant.

The resolution seems a little pat, but then, I believe this is how the original trial that inspires the film also resolved itself.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a strong film, with a unique focus for an exorcism film. It is not about the power of evil, but rather the questions of faith and accountability. At the same time, while the questions are asked, Derrickson is not telling you where you must come down on the answers.

Found Footage of the Dead (Diary of the Dead, 2007)

diary_of_the_dead_posterEarlier I commented on how the Dead movies are kind of set in an “ever present now”.  Diary of the Dead kind of flips that on its head.  Diary of the dead is a found footage approach to Romero’s Dead World.  All told through footage from the cast of characters camera, it explores the early days of the zombie outbreak.  It jumps to the beginning, and the beginning is now.

The film starts out very strongly.  A young woman explains that this movie is compiled both from her boyfriend’s footage and footage from the internet.  The voiceover is spoken as we watch a news report being conducted in front of a crime scene.  As bodies are being loaded into an ambulance, the bodies begin to attack the paramedics.  It is a very effective scene followed by news shots covering the riots and looting.  We then move to a college film crew making a horror movie.  There is an argument regarding whether a monster is supposed to be slow moving or not (which becomes echoed in a far later scene).

The film follows the group as they travel in an RV to make their way to one of the film crew’s homes (he lives in a remote mansion).  They meet survivalists, farmers and National Guardsmen as they work towards their final destination.

One of the biggest changes to the traditional Romero formula is that the zombies in this film are much faster. They leap on people, jump out from behind doors and tackle people.  They are not as fast as Zak Snyder’s zombies from his Dawn of the Dead remake, but still, they are faster than his earlier films.  After a while, the film kind of meanders.  But it picks back up when they reach the mansion and everything gets even worse. The characters also get a bit frustrating, behaving in some questionable ways.  At one point, one guy films one of his friends being stalked by a zombie and really does not lift a finger to help her.

Overall, this is a decent film.  It is interesting that it turns it’s sympathies back towards humans, but it also mirrors the darkness of the original towards the end when we get scenes that are similar to the final moments of the original Night of the Living Dead, asking pretty much the same questions about humanity.

It helps that it is presented as a finished work rather than just a series of footage strung together.  This allows for there to be a stronger narrative structure.  While no competition for the original three films, this is an overall interesting entry.

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