If Hostel is indebted to the shoestring survival flicks of the '70s, The Exorcism Of Emily Rose marks a return to the studios' prestige horror movies of the same era: The Exorcist, perhaps, or The Omen. As director Scott Derrickson explains on one of three featurettes, "We said, 'Let's cast it up from what a genre movie might expect to get.'" And so we have Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson and Campbell Scott, 'proper' actors intent on lending gravitas to this uneasy hybrid of histrionic horror and collected courtroom drama.
It's an intriguing structure, the possession of Emily (Jennifer Carpenter) shown in flashbacks as Wilkinson's exorcist stands trial for murder. Intriguing but doomed, the drab, docile court scenes choking effective suspense sequences which, as Derrickson's commentary point out, reference the movies of Dario Argento and the paintings of Francis Bacon. Based on the real-life exorcism of Anneliese Michel, it's an honourable failure.