Told in flashbacks, The Exorcism of Emily Rose chronicles the haunting trial of a priest who is accused of negligence resulting in the death of the young girl. She was believed to be possessed and the priest performed an exorcism. A lawyer takes on the task of defending him. The story presentation below is actually in chronological order.
The timeline begins with Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter), who was a bit sickly in her early years and stayed inside a lot, reading and learning music. She was always bringing home stray cats, she could never leave a stray abandoned. Years later, Maria Rose (Marilyn Norry), the mother of the Rose family, is seen charging up to a bedroom to see about the racket her daughters are making.
Nineteen year-old Emily and her sisters are jumping up and down in celebration. Emily shows her mother a letter, she's received a full scholarship to a university. Though Maria is a bit sad that Emily will be leaving them, she knows this is Emily's dream. Emily is excited, but nervous about being away from her family, it would be an overwhelming change for her.
At the university, she writes letters to her family and their family physician, Dr. Edith Vogel (Mary Black). Vogel has known Emily all of her life as well as taking care of all her sisters. One letter to the doctor, Emily explains that she had went to a dance and met a boy named Jason. Emily did not want her mother to know this because Maria did not approve of dancing and warned her about the boys at school.
During the Fall on a weekend night at 3:00 AM, alone in her dorm room, Emily notices a strange burning smell from the hallway. When she checks on it, she sees the hallway door open and shut by itself several times. When she goes back to her room, she sees a jar of pencils and pens move by itself.
Additionally, her covers roll themselves down, and a great weight seems to press down on her, a force which also proceeds to choke her and seemingly to possess her momentarily. She bolts out of the room and establishes a call with Dr. Vogel, screaming and sobbing hysterically. She shares with the doctor what had just happened.
Emily is sent to the University Hospital for testing where she suffers more visions. In her patient room, her full plate of food is untouched because she has no appetitie. She's looking out the window as a thunderstorm rages. In the lightening-illuminated clouds, she sees the face of a demon.
This sends her collapsing to the floor screaming and writhing in pain as her body and limbs contort uncontrollably. She was able to resist the demons until she was admitted to the hospital where they overcome her. She believes the possession began that night at the hospital.
Dr. Mueller (Kenneth Welsh), University Chairman of the Department of Neurology, administers an EEG on Emily and it shows a possible epileptic focus on Emily's left temperal lobe. He puts her on a prescription, Gambutrol, for treatment and follow up examinations. Emily fails to keep her follow up appointments with Dr. Mueller. Emily tells Mueller that she is convinced her condition was a spiritual one.
Returning to her classes, things go from bad to worse. Surrounded by students working on assignements, Emily just sits there in a daze. She notices the rain beating on the class room window. The condensation forms another vision of a demon. She becomes frightened and starts crying.
After collecting herself, she sees other students are noticing her behavior. She turns to look at a male student who is staring at her. Suddenly his jaw drops open, his eyes turn pure black, and dark streaks run down his face. Emily freaks out screaming, the student's face is normal again, and she runs out of the class.
Running frantically across the rain soaked campus, she sees demonics faces on a number of people passing by, causing her hysterics to escalate. The first being a passenger in a car that drives by.
She sees demonic faces again when a couple under an umbrella walk past her. In sheer panic mode, she drops her books, falls to the ground, picks herself up and continues running. Jason (Joshua Close) happens to be nearby and he notices her running into the University Chapel.
Again she sees more demonic faces on two elderly ladies inside the chapel. Emily lets out a bone chilling scream. Jason enters the chapel as the two ladies come scrambling out.
We see a close up Emily's eyes. Her pupils have dialeted so much, her eyes are practically black. Jason calls to her, but she doesn't answer, she stands motionless at the alter.
As he approaches her, she reaches out towards the alter, groaning and grunting as her back arches into an impossible position, as if her backbone was broken and bent back.
When Jason calls to her again, Emily looks at him and now the whites of her eyes are mostly red. She screams, "Don't touch me!" Jason falls back in fright as Emily collapses to the floor crying and pleading to Jason to please not leave her.
At another time, Emily and Jason are at the school cafeteria, she hasn't touched her food, though she takes her Gambutrol. She is always hungry but the forces controlling her won't allow her to eat. Emily becomes hypersensitive to even little sounds such as a fork scraping a plate and ice clanging in a glass. The sounds are so abrasive to her, she covers her ears in pain.
That night, Jason walks her back to the dorm and stays with Emily since she was nervous and scared. He held her for awhile to try to calm her down and evenutally he fell asleep. He wakes up in the middle of the night and notices Emily is not beside him. He looks down and sees Emily lying on the floor, her body is contorted in a disturbing position.
Jason leaps up in fear at the sight of her. He slowly crouches down closer to her and once he's closer to her face, he sees her eyes are as black as coal. When he reaches for her, he leaps back when her jaw snaps open, making a cracking sound followed by a haunting wail.
Jason calls Nathanial Rose (Andrew Wheeler), Emily's father, to tell him what's happening and Nathanial requests that he bring her home. Nathanial and Jason put Emily to bed, hoping she would sleep. Emily stays home and did not return to school, she kept getting worse. Her parents become convinced she is not epileptic or mentally ill but is possessed by demons. They eventually call their priest, Father Richard Moore (Tom Wilkinson).
Father Moore arrives at the Rose house, and Nathanial sends his daughter, Alice (Katie Keating), to Emily's room to see if she is awake. Alice slowly approaches the bedroom door and knocks. She hears grunting sounds coming from inside the room. She opens the door and see the wall paint has been scratched off in several places. When Emily comes into view, she's crouched down with her back to Alice. Emily's attention seems to be focused on something on the floor. Alice moves closer and sees a pile of dead insects as Emily picks up a spider and eats it.
Alice screams at this sight, inciting Emily to let out a chilling scream of her own. Emily begins scratching the walls with her fingernails and slams her knees to the the floor in an almost inhuman fashion. Hearing the commotion, Father Moore and Nathanial come running, they are shocked when they see Emily yanking out patches of her hair. The two men rush in to restrain her, Emily puts up a violent struggle, but they manage to pin her to the floor.
Now face to face with Emily, Father Moore is taken back when she speaks a foreign language in a guttural voice. Her body and head begins contorting unnaturally and makes cracking sounds. She then lies motionless, locked in a twisted positon. When they pick her up, her body is so stiff, it's like her body is in a state of rigor mortis. Glaring at Father Moore with her black eyes, she speaks to him in a foreign language, "I am the one who dwells within."
Moore responds in the same language that he is there to defend Emily, but the demon challenges him, "Think you can force me out, priest? Try. I dare you." Suddenly, her body makes cracking sounds and Emily collapses to the floor. She appears to be unconscious untill Father Moore leans over her when she suddenly backhands him forcefully on the face.
Later, Father Moore is seen leaving the house as we see Emily staring out the window. She then turns, sits at the piano, and starts playing "Rachmaninoff's Prelude." Moore pauses to watch her playing and eventually walks away.
On October 27, Father Moore presents his assessment and recommendations to the Arch Bishop, who authorizes an exorcism. That night, Father Moore falls asleep studying the Roman Ritual in preparation for the exorcism, when he is woke up by the sound of thunder and the lights go out. It was exactly 3 A.M., the demonic witching hour. It's a way for demons to mock the Holy Trinity. It's an inversion of 3 P.M., the miracle hour which is traditionally accepted as the hour of Christ's death.