“People say that god is dead, but how can they think that if I show them the devil?”
Out of all the films on this list, Scott Derrickson’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose is by far the most genre bending entry. It is equal part exorcism movie and courtroom drama; not only that, but with every scare comes a dose of heartfelt sentimentality. That is to say, it aims to not only chill the blood, but also warm the heart… what a conundrum.
A priest is charged with murder after an exorcism he performed went horribly wrong and resulted in the death of a young woman, Emily Rose. Before a judge, the priest recalls the events of the ordeal and we are treated to all the sordid details through a series of flashbacks. What sets this exorcism movie apart from the others is a clever balance of ambiguity. The priest says the girl died by the hands of the devil, but science says she was mentally ill and it was the priest’s ineptitude that ended her life.
Interestingly, the horror only works if you take the priest’s side. If you don’t, then the film can almost play as a straight drama. The very real debate between faith and fact becomes infused within the film’s structure and demands the audience to make a choice. If you want to be truly terrorized, then you’re going to have to believe in god. How’s that for irony?