The Tragic Real-Life Story Behind The Exorcism Of Emily Rose - SlashFilm (2024)

Movies Horror Movies

The Tragic Real-Life Story Behind The Exorcism Of Emily Rose - SlashFilm (1)

Screen Gems

ByMiyako Pleines/

Horror movies are notorious for often basing their stories on real-life events. Famous horror films like "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" and "The Conjuring" have taken some of their most terrifying details from things that actually happened to real people. And one of the scariest horror flicks allegedly based on a true story is Scott Derrickson's "The Exorcism of Emily Rose." The film is based on the real-life story of Anneliese Michel, a German woman who was believed to be possessed by the Devil and underwent multiple exorcisms to try to get rid of the demon. She, like the fictional EmilyRose, eventually died — and her family and the priests who performed her exorcisms were put on trial for negligent homicide.

In the movie adaptation of this tragic event, defense lawyer Erin Bruner (Laura Linney) takes on Father Richard Moore's (Tom Wilkinson) case, arguing that the priest is not at fault for Emily's (Jennifer Carpenter) tragic death. The prosecuting attorney, Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott), is trying to prove that Father Moore prevented Emily from being treated for epilepsy and schizophrenia — which resulted in her death. Viewers learn of Emily's story through flashbacks that show what happened to the young woman before she died. The movie is unique in its blending of trial drama and horror, and it's mighty effective in its visceral flashbacks of Emily's final days. In the end, Moore is found guilty by the jury. However, they request that his sentence only be for the time he's already served while waiting for the trial to conclude. He is allowed to leave the courtroom as a guilty, but free, man.

"The Exorcism of Emily Rose" is a compelling horror film because of the way it takes on difficult topics like science and religion. The actual life story of Anneliese Michel differs from the film's depiction of Emily Rose, and to understand both the tragedy of her life and the film's power, it's important to reflect on what really happened.

The Real Emily Rose

The Tragic Real-Life Story Behind The Exorcism Of Emily Rose - SlashFilm (2)

Screen Gems

Anneliese Michel was born in 1952 in Bavaria. Raised by a devoutly Roman Catholic family, she began to experience seizures at the age of 16. She was eventually diagnosed with epilepsy and put on various medications to help control the convulsions. However, the medications didn't seem to curb her increasingly erratic behavior, and her family began to look for help outside of the traditional medical field.

As her symptoms worsened, she developed an extreme aversion to anything symbolic of Christianity. She also reported seeing demonic faces and hearing demons talking to her. An article for Grunge reports that Michel began "compulsively doing hundreds of squats and genuflections a day — 400 to 600 by most accounts — until she eventually ruptured the ligaments in her knees." She also reportedly screamed incessantly and began to eat bugs, behaviors that were not abated by the use of doctor-prescribed medications. Reports vary on whose idea it was to perform an exorcism — some say Michel demanded it, others say it was a decision made by both her and her parents — but eventually, the family enlisted the help of a priest named Ernst Alst. Along with Pastor Arnold Renz, the two men set about exorcising Michel from her demons.

Anneliese Michel would eventually endure 67 separate exorcisms in her final days. During these intense periods, the Washington Post reports that she would often name the demons that possessed her, "and [she] even answered the exorcists' questions, explaining what was wrong with the church or why they were in Hell." Video recordings exist of these chilling conversations that Anneliese Michell had with Alst and Renz, and listening to them is both disturbing and heartbreaking.

Ultimately, Anneliese Michel passed away after enduring almost a year of multiple weekly exorcisms. Towards the end of her life, she refused to eat — which only sped up her worsening physical condition. When she died, she weighed less than 70 pounds, and her cause of death was reported as "malnutrition and dehydration that resulted from almost a year of semi-starvation during the rites" as reported by the Washington Post. Her parents, along with Alst and Renz, were put on trial for negligent homicide, and they were ultimately found guilty of negligent manslaughter and sentenced to "six-month prison sentences, which were suspended, and three years' probation."

Emily vs. Anneliese

The Tragic Real-Life Story Behind The Exorcism Of Emily Rose - SlashFilm (3)

Screen Gems

"The Exorcism of Emily Rose" does a decent job of portraying Anneliese Michel's tragic story. However, like all movies based on real events, some changes have been made. One of the most obvious is that Emily Rose isn't German but American. That being said, there are moments where the movie nods to the original nationality of Anneliese Michel. During the scene depicting Emily's exorcism, Emily begins speaking in German, a moment that harkens back to the actual tapes of Anneliese Michel fervently talking to Alst and Renz. If you're unfamiliar with the source material, you might miss this subtle nod, but it is a nice addition for those familiar with Michel's backstory.

It's also important to note that the only person on trial in "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" is the priest himself, Father Richard Moore. Emily's family has avoided sentencing in the death of their child, and Father Moore is the only one being charged with the same sentence as the real-life case of negligent homicide. The decision to avoid placing Emily's parents on trial along with Father Moore goes a long way toward highlighting the religious significance of Emily's death. Without her parents on trial, the case truly becomes solely about religious belief vs. scientific belief, making the outcome of the movie all the more impactful.

There are other smaller details that have been changed in the movie, like the fact that Emily is only 19 years old at the time of her death, and only one exorcism is ever performed on her (in reality, Anneliese Michel was 23 when she died, and as stated earlier, she underwent nearly 70 separate exorcisms). But the biggest difference between the film and the real story is the sentencing of Father Moore. During the real trial, the prosecution suggested that the only punishment for the priests and for the parents come in the form of a guilty verdict and monetary fines. However, this wish was not reflected in the real outcome. In the film, though, Father Moore is found guilty, but the jury requests his punishment be time served — meaning that he is free to go. This change in sentencing suggests that everyone had a role to play in the death of Emily Rose — or Anneliese Michel, depending on how you want to read it — and everyone hopes their own chosen belief systems could ultimately save her.

How The Exorcism of Emily Rose Goes Beyond a Good Scare

The Tragic Real-Life Story Behind The Exorcism Of Emily Rose - SlashFilm (4)

Screen Gems

When you sign on to watch a horror movie, you expect to be scared. Maybe you'll jump a little in your seat, maybe you'll find yourself grossed out at the gore. But if a horror movie fails to add any real suspense into the mix, it can often backfire. So what happens when you take a very real, very tragic story and try to adapt it into a horror movie? Well, one of two things can occur. You can either have a film that focuses solely on shock and scares but ultimately ends up devaluing — and possibly even disrespecting — the story's source material, or you can have a film that tries to tastefully straddle the line between its commitment to the horror genre and to remaining respectful to the original story.

In the case of "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," while not 100% successful, it is definitely a film that strives to achieve the latter effect. Because much of the movie is set in court, the film resists the urge to play into the dark and twisted psychology (and potential gore) of possession. Instead, the only times the audience is privy to the more intense aspects of Emily's condition are during flashbacks that are often prompted by another character recounting their memory of Emily. This means that the scarier parts of the film are few and far between, and when they do happen, they almost always serve a purpose. Rarely are there any gratuitous shows of gore and violence that feel unnecessary or out of place. Anneliese Michel's story is allowed to exist on screen in a way that seeks to shine a light rather than exploit.

In fact, the film's main argument seems to have less to do with objectifying the suffering of Emily, and more to do with drawing attention to the distinction between religious and scientific belief. If a person believes the practices of their religion will save them even if they ultimately end up doing more harm than good, does that constitute neglect? In the current social climate where personal belief is a hot-button issue, this is a question worth ruminating upon. Whether you believe Emily/Anneliese was truly the subject of possession, her story remains one worthy of telling.

The Tragic Real-Life Story Behind The Exorcism Of Emily Rose - SlashFilm (2024)


The Tragic Real-Life Story Behind The Exorcism Of Emily Rose - SlashFilm? ›

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The Exorcism of Emily Rose
The film is loosely based on the book The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel by Felicitas D. Goodman, which tells the story of Anneliese Michel, and follows a self-proclaimed agnostic (Linney) who acts as defense counsel representing a parish priest (Wilkinson) accused of negligent homicide after performing an exorcism. › wiki › The_Exorcism_of_Emily_Rose
is based on the real-life story of Anneliese Michel, a German college student and devout Catholic who died during an exorcism in 1976. Doctors said her seizures and visions were caused by epilepsy. Her family and their bishop believed it was demon possession.

What is the true story of The Exorcism of Emily Rose? ›

The film is loosely based on the book The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel by Felicitas D. Goodman, which tells the story of Anneliese Michel, and follows a self-proclaimed agnostic (Linney) who acts as defense counsel representing a parish priest (Wilkinson) accused of negligent homicide after performing an exorcism.

What happened to Father Moore? ›

Father Moore is ultimately found guilty; however, on a recommendation from the jury, the judge agrees to a sentence of time served. (In modern American legal practice, juries are only allowed to answer questions specifically directed to them, though sometimes they are asked separately to sentence defendants.

Is it safe to watch exorcism of Emily Rose? ›

Parents need to know that the movie, despite its PG-13 rating, includes gruesome imagery, sound effects, and especially explicit references to demonic possession, animalistic behavior, self-inflicted violence, and of course, questions concerning religious faith and skepticism.

What is the plot of The Exorcism of Emily Rose? ›

Was there a serial killer on the set of The Exorcist? ›

Paul Bateson (born August 24, 1940) is an American convicted murderer and former radiographer. He appeared as a radiologic technologist in a scene from the 1973 horror film The Exorcist, which was inspired when the film's director, William Friedkin, watched him perform a cerebral angiography the previous year.

Was The Exorcist based on a true story? ›

While its sensationalized depiction of demonic possession has all but defined this type of narrative in the popular imagination, the material itself is loosely based on a real-life case from 1949, where Father William Bowdern performed a series of exorcisms on a 14-year-old boy.

What happened at the end of The Exorcism of Emily Rose? ›

How does the movie end? Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson) is found guilty of negligent homicide in the death of Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter), and Judge Brewster (Mary Beth Hurt) sets sentencing for April 3rd.

Where is Emily Rose's grave located? ›

What happened to Captain Moore? ›

Capt Sir Tom died in February 2021 aged 100, with coronavirus. He had become ill not long after his family took him on holiday to Barbados in December 2020 after British Airways paid for his flight, and he tested positive for Covid-19 in hospital in January.

Who won The Exorcism of Emily Rose? ›

Science finally wins in the courtroom and Moore is convicted because there is no conclusive evidence that epilepsy and other mental disorders were not to blame for Emily's behavior.

How many jump scares are in The Exorcism of Emily Rose? ›

See below for the exact times and descriptions of the 9 jump scares in The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which has a jump scare rating of 2.5. Jump Scare Rating: Quite a scary film due to the realistic feel the movie has.

Is The Exorcist movie safe to watch? ›

A horror classic, but keep it away from kids!

Any parent should keep this movie away from kids. It may be a classic, but it's a mature classic. This movie is very complex when it comes to religion, but also incredibly scary to some people to this day.

Was The Exorcism of Emily Rose based on a true story? ›

Three films, The Exorcism of Emily Rose (which focuses on both the court case and the exorcism), Requiem, and Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes, are loosely based on Michel's story. First Issue, the debut album by post-punk band Public Image Ltd, contains a song titled "Annalisa" that is based on the case.

What is the moral of the story of the rose for Emily? ›

Lesson Summary

One moral, or ethical message, of this story is the risk we take in wearing rose colored glasses because we can't properly see the world when wearing them. Another moral of this story is that we need to find the balance between the morals of the old generation and the modern ideas of the new generation.

What is the plot twist of A Rose for Emily? ›

However, the truth is the odor is emanating from the corpse of Homer Barron, as apparently, Emily had poisoned him when he attempted to leave her. When Emily dies, the townspeople learn that she has kept Homer's corpse. Her loneliness had been so severe that she had been sleeping with his corpse for years.

Who is Emily Rose married to? ›

How scary is The Exorcism of Emily Rose? ›

There are some cheesy effects, such as the demonic visions, but there are some genuinely frightening parts, especially the actual exorcism scene, mainly due to the chilling and captivating performance from Jennifer Carpenter as the title character.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Kimberely Baumbach CPA

Last Updated:

Views: 5761

Rating: 4 / 5 (61 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kimberely Baumbach CPA

Birthday: 1996-01-14

Address: 8381 Boyce Course, Imeldachester, ND 74681

Phone: +3571286597580

Job: Product Banking Analyst

Hobby: Cosplaying, Inline skating, Amateur radio, Baton twirling, Mountaineering, Flying, Archery

Introduction: My name is Kimberely Baumbach CPA, I am a gorgeous, bright, charming, encouraging, zealous, lively, good person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.