Some seriously scary-ass shit
The Exorcism of Emily Rose is the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. Well, maybe not exactly. During a second grade slumber party, I watched the first three Nightmare on Elm Street films in a white-knuckled panic. I had Freddie nightmares for weeks, which occasionally still crop up today. I couldn’t even listen to Nightmare on My Street on my DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince album without sweating. When I was ten I was subjected to “Witch Blade” at another slumber party (cursed things!), which made me fear both Oujia boards and Tawny Kitaen. (Watching that Whitesnake video was torture.) And before even those, The Wicked Witch of the West made me hide my face in my mom’s lap and beg her to fast forward.
So when I say that The Exorcism of Emily Rose is the scariest movie I’ve ever seen, I mean it’s the thing that has scared me the most as an adult. More than the week I spent sleeping with the lights on after I saw The Ring. More than the nights after The Blair Witch Project that I spent waking up and, as I was half asleep, imagining that I saw someone standing in the corner. Emily Rose scared the shit out of me. It affected me on a deep, physical level. It connected with some primal fear within me. It made me afraid to go home by myself, even though I was watching it in the middle of the day. It made me grip the armrests of the theatre and wish desperately that I had brought someone to see it with me. This film played into all of my deep-seated fears about things that go bump in the night, the nature of evil, and the horrible, terrible things that seem to happen to good people for no reason. I was shaking for a full ten minutes after it was over. I’m sleeping with the lights on again.
This film profoundly affected me, more so than any horror-themed moving picture since I saw Thriller when I was about nine, which made me love horror films and want to make them. It wasn’t just that Emily Rose was a scary film, it’s also based on a true story. Yes, this freaky-ass shit actually happened.
In the viewing of this film, it doesn’t matter what you believe about demons or non-corporeal evil (I’m on Jesus’ side, in case you were wondering), the film shows you both sides of the story. Emily is shown both as a paranoid epileptic and as possessed by demons. And the fact that Emily and her family thought that she was possessed, the manner in which she died, and the trial of her priest for negligent homicide is crazy in itself. Then you take into account the way that Jennifer Carpenter, in her freaky-ass chick role of Emily Rose, had to contort, slam into things, and otherwise give herself permanent back injuries in the telling of both possible truths. Someone please tell me that the filmmakers used CGI to make her human pretzeling look worse that it was, because watching her do this stuff gave me some serious empathy pains.
In one scene, Emily stomps down on her knees, creating a horrible hard thudding that I can still hear. (Stomp isn’t really the right word, but there is no other, more accurate word because no one in real life ever slam-lands on their knees like that.) She shreds the wall with her fingernails and screams and screams. Not only is it scary, it’s shocking. And just when you think that it can’t get any worse, something else jumps out from nowhere that shocks you even more. I’d love to know about the experiences writer Paul Harris Boardman and writer/director Scott Derrickson had while making this film. Were there strange occurrences like those that reportedly haunted the sets of The Exorcist and Poltergeist? Did they scare themselves so much that they had to sleep with the lights on?
I don’t want to give anything away because I think that anyone who’s ever enjoyed a horror film should see this one, but 3 am has a big bad significance in Emily. The day that I saw the film, I had to work a late shift and, as you can guess, I arrived home at 3am. I almost started crying on my way home. (Luckily, my neighbors were still up drinking, so I got to hang out for a while and talk about a lot of things that weren’t scary at all. But I still slept on the couch, with the lights and the TV on.) Hell, this film even made me skittish of my cat (also a development that I don’t want to give away), who I’ve had for four years and who hasn’t once gone ape-shit on me and tried to suck out my soul.
I give The Exorcism of Emily Rose my scariest rating: two weeks of sleeping with the lights on. I’ll let you know if I go any longer.