Real and imaginary demons

DUSTED VERSION: From `The Exorcism of Emily Rose'  

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

Director: Scott Derrickson

Cast: Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Jennifer Carpenter

It is over 30 years since the original film, "The Exorcist", was made.

And two sequels and a prequels and countless clones later, Hollywood had decided to dust that old formula — a mix of horror and humbug — and recycle it for another generation of incredulous viewers with strong stomachs.

This time, to liven things up, the actual exorcism is played out on the sidelines of a courtroom drama — and that too mostly in flashback. A Jesuit priest, Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson), is accused of murder after a young woman, Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter), dies after he tries to cure her psychotic malaise by exorcism.

His lawyer, Erin Bruner (Laura Linney), has to prove that the girl's death was due to the drugs given to her and not anything the priest did. The Church is curiously ambivalent and would rather the priest made what Americans call a "plea bargain" — a legal curiosity that the rest of the world cannot be expected to understand, where defence and prosecution sit down cosily and work out a "compromise" solution with a reduced charge.

Fr. Moore refuses to make any such admission and the rest of the film is standard courtroom soap — of a type made familiar by all those U.S.-based serials on cable TV. It might have been half watchable except that the makers insist on inserting all those flashbacks of the actual incident and its build-up.

You have a choice: you can risk throwing up and watch riveting courtroom heroics. Or you can let your stomach decide for you, whether to avoid the risk.

Anand Parthasarathy