Starring Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Campbell Scott, and Jennifer Carpenter
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
“People say that God is dead, but how can they believe that when I show them the Devil?”
So reads Father Moore from Emily’s last written letter to him. It’s been a hell of a year for the devil and demons. Possession is a phenomenon that has not been handled well in cinema. Since the original Exorcist every attempt to bring these diabolical devices to the screen has failed, and failed miserably. Even The Exorcist’s own sequels drop the ball by giving silly profanity laden rehashes of material that would never match the horror and intensity of the original. Fans have waited a long time for someone to come along and create something scary and original. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is that film.
Much like The Exorcist, Emily Rose is based upon a true story, and the depiction of truth can be more terrifying than any CGI wall-crawling demon or the feigned perfection of a super gimp. We’re introduced at the start of the film to a modest old farmhouse bathed in hues of pale green. It’s apparent that something very bad has taken place here. Something cold and evil. Everyone inhabiting the place has the same catatonic look on their faces. They’ve been subject to horrors that up until now they could never have conceived. Thus begins our journey down Emily’s path. A path that is paved with enough terrors to keep even the most jaded horror fans awake at night.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose works on two different levels: one as a horror film and the other as a courtroom drama. While Emily’s story of possession is mainly told through the flashback testimonials of eyewitnesses to the case, the rest of the film follows the day-to-day happenings of the trial of The People vs. Father Richard Moore, Emily’s priest. Father Moore has been charged with negligent homicide, and his future now depends on the cases pleaded by the battling attorneys.
Director Scott Derrickson and writer Paul Harris Boardman do a commendable job painting this picture. Films pertaining to religious beliefs can be difficult to pull off without seeming overbearing or preachy. An agnostic approach is taken to the subject matter,thereby letting the audience decide what they believe to have happened. This film will provoke a lot of discussion, and that truly is a sign of a great piece of work.
The cast turns in incredible performances all around, but the true star of this show for us genre fans is the possession aspect. We wanna see the goods! We wanna be scared! Having said that, let me make mention of the next true star of the film, Jennifer Carpenter. Her portrayal of Emily Rose is bone-chilling. You will be horrified and sympathetic. This poor soul is being tortured. It is conveyed in every movement, every spine tingling shriek, and every venomous glare directed at those trying to help her. Few times in my life have I witnessed such a look of soulless hatred as when Father Moore was dared by one of the demons inside of Emily to try and cast it out. Director Derrickson realized upon auditioning Carpenter that he could scrap the majority of the F/X scenes he had planned for the film. In his own words, “They would have just gotten in Jennifer’s way.” Indeed. As an athlete, Carpenter is able to contort her frame into some truly horrifying and unnatural positions. For the more extreme moments of rigidity and contortion, some traditional and CGI effects were employed; but I’d estimate that a good ninety percent of it is her. She’s simply stunning.
Unrated DVD’s seem to be a welcome trend as of late. As fans we all want to see a director’s original vision, and DVD is the perfect medium to do so. Emily Rose follows this trend, and the words Unrated Version are stamped right across the top of the box. This may be a little misleading though. Most fans when they see the word “unrated” automatically assume they there are some juicy tidbits strewn throughout the film that the MPAA wanted excised for various reasons in their never-ending quest to shield us from things that they deem too horrific or inappropriate. This is true in the case of this film, but the end result amounts to nothing more than the insertion of color post mortem photos of Emily as opposed to the black and white ones seen in the theatrical version, an extended courtroom exchange between Campbell Scott and Shohreh Aghdashloo, and a couple of blink and you missed it trims in the actual exorcism scene. Seriously, I doubt anyone would even notice the difference between the cuts as they are extremely minor.
Sadly, the extras side of things doesn’t offer much of anything else either. I was extremely surprised that there wasn’t more. Strangely enough, even though this film is based upon a true story, hardly any mention of the actual events that inspired it was made at all. Instead we get three featurettes that add up to about an hour’s worth of behind the scenes stuff, a thankfully deleted scene, and an informative yet kind of bland director’s commentary. While Derrickson delivered the goods, I would have rather heard him paired with someone than go it solo. Carpenter would have been the ideal choice, but whatever. At least we got something. Right?
Even without the inclusion of some more interesting special features, The Exorcism of Emily Rose should be at the top of your shopping / rental list, if only for the film itself. There are things in this world that cannot be explained. Forces that we simply cannot grasp. Why was this girl made to suffer? Was she possessed or just mentally ill? How come we can’t get more films like this out of Hollywood instead of the paint by numbers homogenized crap that we are usually served? Only the devil knows!
Deleted scene with commentary
Genesis of the Story featurette
Casting the Film featurette
Visual Design featurette
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
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