RITES OF SPRING/THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE: A TERRIFYING DOUBLE BILL OF SUPERNATURAL HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
RITES OF SPRING. (2011) DIRECTED BY PADRAIG REYNOLDS. STARRING A.J. BOWEN, KATHERINE RANDOLPH, ANESSA RAMSEY, MARCO ST. JOHN AND JEFF NATIONS.
THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE. (2006) DIRECTED BY SCOTT DERRICKSON. STARRING LAURA LINNEY, TOM WILKINSON AND JENNIFER CARPENTER.
This is a pairing of horror films which I always associate with each other because I first watched them at around the same time. They’re both top-notch horror films which I re-visit every year, and always one after the other, usually RITES OF SPRING followed by EMILY ROSE.
Let’s take a closer look at them, starting, appropriately enough, with RITES OF SPRING. Although you wouldn’t think it with the cold, the wind and the sleet, it is in fact Spring, a time for snowdrops and daffodils, green shoots and… the most hideous of human sacrifices…
There are two storylines running concurrently in this American horror movie directed by an Irishman, RITES OF SPRING. Firstly, we have a small group of criminals who are planning to kidnap a rich man’s little daughter in order to ransom her for the pay-off of a lifetime.
The kidnapping goes to plan up to a point, but blood is shed during the home invasion and the kidnappers are forced to bring along an extra hostage they hadn’t bargained on. They bring both their hostages to an old abandoned school miles from anywhere and wait for the pay-off to arrive…
The other storyline is bloody terrifying. Two attractive young women are abducted by a strange old man. They wake up to find themselves suspended from hooks in an old dump of a shed out in the countryside somewhere.
The old man keeps popping in to cut them with knives or cut their clothing off their trembling bodies. He keeps asking them if they’re ‘clean’ but, just in case they’re not, he’s got a bucket of water and a bristly sponge handy. Eeeep…!
As if that wasn’t scary enough, the viewers get the distinct impression that a human sacrifice of some kind is just around the corner. And who- or what- is the old man keeping prisoner underneath the locked trapdoor? And what does the man need the girls’ blood for?
When the two storylines spectacularly collide, a chase begins that always puts me in mind of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and SWITCHBLADE ROMANCE, among others. The folk horror element will probably remind you somewhat of THE WICKER MAN.
The chase in the second half of the film is tense with some truly shocking moments. Even the cover of the DVD box is super-sexy, picturing a naked woman suspended from a rope and silhouetted against the night sky while in the background looms a dilapidated old barn.
THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE is based on true events which, when I researched ’em briefly online, scared the living daylights out of me. The film is part courtroom drama and part horror, the horror being told in terrifying flashbacks. Though it’s naturally not a patch on William Friedkin’s THE EXORCIST, the Mammy and Daddy of exorcism films, it’s still a brilliant and really watchable horror story.
Laura Linney plays Erin Bruner, a high-flying barrister whose job it is to defend a priest called Father Richard Moore, who’s played by wonderful English actor Tom Wilkinson (THE FULL MONTY, IN THE BEDROOM).
He’s accused of bringing about the death through negligence of a beautiful young woman with everything to live for called Emily Rose. How, you might ask, did he do this? As we’re told in flash-backs, he performed an exorcism on the girl with the full consent of her worried parents because she’d exhibited signs of demonic possession. These included contortions of her body, speaking in strange languages and seeing horrible visions of demonic faces, among other things.
The lawyers prosecuting poor old Father Moore are maintaining that the girl was anorexic and that she had epilepsy coupled with psychosis. These conditions, they claim, neatly cover all of Emily’s symptoms. Erin Bruner, on the other hand, attempts to convince the sceptical court of the existence of demonic possession, because that’s what Father Moore and Emily’s devastated parents truly believe was the root of Emily’s terrifying experiences.
The scenes in which Emily first notices the demonic influences around her are really scary. So are the ones in which Father Moore and Erin Bruner both feel the demonic presence close by in the dead of night (at 3am, to be precise, the REAL witching hour) and the ones where the priest bravely attempts to rid the girl of the evil spirits that plague her.
Emily’s bodily contortions are super-freaky and all real and not computerised, from what I can make out. They’ll put the willies up you big-time. I could have done without the gold initialled locket in the snow and maybe even the stigmata as well, but otherwise, this is a really scary film that you shouldn’t watch just before going to bed because it’ll give you the worst nightmares you’ve ever had.
But do watch it if you can. Even if you think that exorcisms and demonic possession are just a load of old hogwash from the movies, there are plenty of people who don’t agree. Even if you’re determined to remain a hardened sceptic, at least try to keep an open mind. After all, there are more things in Heaven and Earth and so on, aren’t there…?
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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