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Film review: 'Rose' rip-off of 'Exorcist' is what's really frightening

Jennifer Carpenter's unconvincing turn proves she's no Linda Blair.
Jennifer Carpenter's unconvincing turn proves she's no Linda Blair.
Diyah Pera, Screen Gems

THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE — ** — Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Campbell Scott; rated PG-13 (violence, profanity, drugs, brief gore).

It's hard to say which is scarier — that the makers of "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" are claiming that the widely debunked story is true or the fact that they were able to attract such a first-rate cast.

You would hardly expect Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson and Campbell Scott to appear in such a transparent rip-off of "The Exorcist."

Let's just say it's no coincidence that the word "exorcism" is featured so prominently in the ads and TV spots.

To be fair, the filmmakers have at least tried to do something a little different with the material, combining two genres — the demonic-possession horror movie with the courtroom drama. Unfortunately, neither is done very well.

Linney stars in this supernatural thriller as Erin Bruner, an ambitious attorney who's been asked to represent Father Moore (Wilkinson), a clergyman accused of negligent homicide in the death of college student Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter). The catch is, Emily died after Father Moore attempted to "exorcise" what he believes were demons possessing the young woman.

Prosecutor Ethan Thomas (Scott) is determined to throw the book at Father Moore, having found witnesses and experts who claim that Emily was mentally ill and that her afflictions could have been treated if Father Moore hadn't talked her out of taking her medication.

As a result, the skeptical Erin is hesitant to take Father Moore's case.

Co-screenwriter/director Scott Derrickson stacks the deck against the scientific explanation, thus eliminating some potentially interesting material. Instead he concentrates on the supernatural elements. One of those, about the significance of a certain hour in the morning, is laughably silly.

That provides a challenge for the cast — though, for the most part, each cast member manages to keep a straight face.

However, Carpenter's wide-eyed, unconvincing turn here proves she's no Linda Blair, and Shohreh Aghdashloo's goofy performance as an exorcism expert seems to indicate that she thinks she's appearing in a comedy.

"The Exorcism of Emily Rose" is rated PG-13 for violence (the results of demonic possession, as well as some animal attacks and vehicular violence) and some disturbing imagery, occasional use of profanity (much of it religiously based), drug content (discussion of prescription drug use and hypodermic use), and some brief gore. Running time: 116 minutes.