Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Verdict Is In: God Hates Lawyers.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose
2005, USA
Scott Derrickson

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a good horror film. It’s also been a while since I’ve seen a good legal thriller, but I never thought that those two desires could be miserably disappointed at once. Scott Derrickson, the director of The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, has proudly stated that his is the first courtroom drama slash horror film. He says this like it’s is a good thing. What Derrickson fails to realize is that certain things don’t mix well, like blood and milk, Jay-Z and the Beatles, and interracial couples . Though I suppose if the terms ‘legal-wrangling’ and ‘precedent of eminent domain’ don’t set your nerves on edge, a teenage girl spitting blood and eating bugs might, so I guess they’ve got all their bases covered here. Starring Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson, the film tells the ‘true’ story of Emily Rose, the eldest daughter in a rural family of horse-faced women who dies after a failed exorcism. Sound interesting? It is, for the twenty minutes it’s on screen. The rest of the movie is like four consecutive hours of Trial By Jury devoted to a negligent homicide charge, possibly the most boring criminal act since corporate malfeasance. What’s worse is that the court scenes are devoted to mixing together a revolting mash of pandering sentimentality and missionary Christianity, spooning me Pablum full of sugar and fish oil while I try not to gag and disturb the fellow next to me playing F1 Racing on his Nokia.

Wish I'd been watching this instead.

Before I get too far into this clearly insane movie, I’d like to first state my personal views on religion. Firstly, it should state that, while I’m an atheist, I don’t technically have anything against religion in general, or Christianity in specific. I just don’t believe in magic. When I see David Blaine wow some toothless southerner on television with a card trick, I tend to believe that he’s a liar, rather than the son of god birthed through immaculate conception, so I don’t really see how Jesus started up a whole cult based on a few neat parlour tricks. I’m also fairly certain that if there’s someone up in heaven controlling the universe, he got there via a hot-air balloon, and he’s sitting behind his curtain busily pulling levers while hating women and gays, occasionally taking a break to laugh at the Pope’s hat. So, while I am biased, I try to remain objective, but this movie has gone entirely too far. Mark my words, this film will be watched in film schools in twenty years, not because it’s any good, but because it’s a perfect barometer of the current American culture, where progressive social reforms are being rolled back in favour of 19th century frontier morals. The movie overflows with the barely tempered fundamentalism and anti-intellectualism of the Bush administration, almost to the point of self-parody. It’s got all the subtlety of a Disney film in its caricatured characters, from the innocent rural girl who moves off to a big-city university to find sex, Satan, and possibly even feminism, to the soulless defence lawyer in a crisis of faith who does all the things good Christians shouldn’t do, like drink and read. The movie seeks to present a fair and balanced debate of science versus religion in the setting of a trial over Emily’s death, where a medical explanation of her condition is contrasted with a spiritual one, but the bias is clear and present. First of all, this has to be the most polite possession ever committed to film. Sure, there’s all kinds of contorting and creepy contact lenses, but compared to Linda Blair masturbating with a bloody crucifix, Emily Rose’s horrifying refusal to refer to her parish priest as ‘Father’ seems a little lacking. The religious folk are all simple and earthy, full of homespun pearls of good ol’ boy wisdom, but all the scientists are arrogant, black-suited pricks, to the point where you can almost hear the words ‘ivy-league liberal’ frothing from Dennis Miller’s lips.

A fair and balanced critique of Dennis Miller

The movie’s not even about exorcism. That’s just the deranged window dressing, like a Halloween display at Macy’s. This movie is about teaching intelligent design in schools, pure and simple. It’s all about the idea of multiple possibilities, and how alternate explanations should be considered alongside scientifically accepted ones. Granted, there are often two different explanations of any given phenomena. In fact, there are thousands, it’s just that only one of them is right, and the rest of them involve faeries or goblins or dinosaurs or Bigfoot or a bunch of other crazy things that don’t make any sense. There’s an alternative explanation as to why it hurts when I piss too, or how my ninth grade girlfriend got pregnant from using a public swimming pool, but that doesn’t make it likely, valid, or supported by evidence. Nevertheless, this film insists that its religious paradigm be granted equal time, all the while building to a cop-out climax that grants one side the technical victory, the other the moral one, and the audience a taste of old-fashioned Scopes Monkey Trial logic. I, for one, hope to one day attend the class where this film is studied, provided the log cabin schoolhouse hasn’t burned down through witchery, and that Marm Prudence Goodwife doesn’t have the vapours again.


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12:27 a.m.  
Blogger Jerk Of All Trades 2.0 said...

Is it strange of me to think that the "Work at home moms" one is the only one that fits in here?

OK....I should wait to rent this one.

Let me get this straight, Satan is at University and Jesus can be "found" in prison? These guys need to get together and figure out who needs to be where A.S.A.F.P.

8:28 a.m.  
Blogger Jerk Of All Trades 2.0 said...

Right on!!

10:54 a.m.  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

You can also find Jesus at the bottom of a whiskey bottle. Personally, I found him getting a chicken tikka plate at the take-out Indian place when I was buying a slice of pizza at the mall food court. He wanted to stay and chat about how to seem forgiving and horribly judgemental at the same time, but he was on lunch from the call centre that does tech support for Toshiba.

8:29 a.m.  
Blogger Sam Kahn said...

Bad word of mouth is going to tank this movie. What I've heard universally over here is basically "I was promised horror and I got courtroom drama." Audiences don't appreciate being lied to. However, I must say that the marketing guys did an amazing job... they earned about triple in box office than what they and the rest of the industry expected. Even after a rapid drop-off over the next couple weeks, it's still going to have made a ton of money.

1:37 a.m.  
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3:11 p.m.  

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