By Bradley B. Klinge – Associate Editor, The Dove Foundation

One of the first thoughts regarding a movie that is based on a true story is: “What parts of the movie are real, and which are made up?” Director/writer Scott Derrickson answers that question for his recent release “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”.

“The ‘bones’ of the story are all in line with the real events.  There was a girl who was recognized by the Catholic Church as being possessed and authorized her exorcism.  After an exorcism, the girl died.  After her death, the priest involved was arrested and put on trial for negligent homicide.  The verdict in the real case is the verdict in the film.  Beyond that, there was a lot of fictionalizing of characters.  Laura Linney’s character was almost entirely fictional, and was created for the purpose of the movie.”

Derrickson added further, “In my opinion, once you change the names and dates and location of the story, then you are moving away from telling a story into ‘based on a true story’.  For me, the true story was very fascinating and compelling in that it involved a possession, exorcism and trial.  I wanted to preserve those basic elements, but after that, my goal was to try to write the most entertaining and interesting movie possible.”

Derrickson explains his reason for pursuing this particular story.  “When I heard the true story and did my research on it, I was immediately captivated by the idea of making a movie that involved two different genres.  I’ve never seen a courtroom horror film before.  The idea of trying to blend those two genres together was immediately interesting to me.”

Derrickson feels he has successfully combined the two genres into one movie.  “One of my primary goals of the movie was to make a movie which functioned as a horror film; had the rising and falling of tension and gave audiences a scare.  It also had to have the riveting tension of a courtroom drama.  Putting both of those in one movie was not easy, but I think we pulled it off.”

Another reason which enticed Derrickson was his desire to make a movie that would provoke the audience to think about what they believe about the existence of the Spiritual realm.  Derrickson clarifies, “I want them to ask themselves what the implications of this movie are.  Do demons exist?  Does God exist?  This is a movie that I don’t think you can see, and not think about those fundamental questions.”

Derrickson states that his film is not for young children, but believes parents need to make that decision.  “This movie is not as exploitive as “The Exorcist”, but it is very scary.  I believe strongly in parental responsibility in regard to what they allow their children to see.  Teenagers love horror films, and will go to them no matter what.  I would rather have them see this film than ‘House of Wax’”. 

Derrickson compares his film with other horror flicks.  “This is a story about the search for truth, it’s about spiritual reality.  I think Christians are deeply appreciative of someone who handles this subject matter with intelligence and seriousness.  Plenty of horror films offer no insight into anything.  I’d much rather have my kids see something that has good spiritual and theological truth to it”

I asked him, “With the Box Office results down this year, and plenty of horror films already released, do we really need another one?” 

“This is a good genre for the Box Office because these movies don’t tend to be terribly expensive.” Derrickson explains.   “Making a successful horror film, on the other hand, is difficult.  They are very cinematic types of movies, which require a lot of skill and effort.  Many people fail; I’ve worked on some really bad ones, so I know first hand.”

Horror is not the only genre that interests Derrickson.  “I love this genre.  It has lots of potential, especially for provoking people to think.  My next film probably won’t be horror.  I would really like to make a science fiction movie.  I have written some science fiction screenplays for studios in the past.  The horror genre, though, is a great way to get into Hollywood directing.”

“The Exorcism of Emily Rose” opened nationally in theatres on September 9, 2005.  The movie surpassed $30 million (30.2) during its opening weekend.

Read Dove’s review of “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”