Jennifer Carpenter Is 'Emily Rose'

If it's possible to be a Type A demonic possession victim, Jennifer Carpenter (search) is it.

In "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," (search) out this weekend, the actress plays a college freshman who has a mysterious physical and mental breakdown.

She has terrifying visions of ghoulish faces on the people around her, becomes wracked by paralysis and spasms, and speaks in strange, unearthly voices. Linda Blair's got nothing on this girl.

But the sweet Southern actress modestly chalks it all up to being a hard worker.

"I know it looks really crazy and loud and out there, but there is a method to the madness," she says. "I watched tapes about seizures and epilepsy, and read about possession. I studied kabuki. I tried to go in every direction.

"I wanted to keep myself and the audience on the fence as long as possible."

Keeping people undecided about Emily is at the heart of the film, based on a real-life trial involving a girl's death and an exorcism ritual.

Doctors say she had a severe but treatable form of epilepsy, but her priest and family maintain she was possessed by the devil.

The one thing they agree on is that Emily Rose was definitely not herself.

"Scott [Derrickson, the director] asked us, 'What does something inhuman look like in a girl?' And he said to think of all the clich‚s you can imagine, and move as far away as possible," says Carpenter, who's never seen "The Exorcist."

The 25-year-old actress, last seen in a minor role in "White Chicks," went above and beyond to get inside Emily's skin. In one scene, her boyfriend wakes in the middle of the night to find her on his dorm room floor, frozen in a bizarrely contorted position with her eyes wide open.

"They had built a dummy to look like me, so they could bend it for that scene," recalls Carpenter. "And I said, 'I can lie like that.' So they put me on the floor instead of the dummy, and just asked how long I could hold it for."

The actress put her vocal training to the test as well, spending more on-screen time screaming than talking -- to say nothing of the creepy whispers, growling, and Aramaic curses she hurls at the priest (Tom Wilkinson).

"Each scream had a different tone," she says. "I would think of one as pounding on my ribs; another stabbing at my heart. I was trying to make structure out of chaos."

In the film's climactic scene, which takes place in a barn, the Carpenter knocked herself out.

"I'm allergic to hay, so I took an antihistamine, to make it through the day. I didn't know it thins your blood and makes your heart race!

"So I'm screaming all day long," she continues, "and then I just fainted. When I opened my eyes, I didn't know where I was. I think that freaked the crew out."

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