Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Horror,Mystery,Thrillers Movie Review of ‘The Devil Inside’ (2012)

Movie Review of ‘The Devil Inside’ (2012)

A title card prefacing The Devil Inside claims that the Vatican does not want you to see this movie. It’s a fictional statement present for dramatic effect, yet it wouldn’t surprise me if the Vatican were against the movie due to how fucking awful it is.The Devil Inside is another attempt at a “found footage” exorcist film, arriving two years after Eli Roth’s disastrous The Last Exorcism. The found footage gimmick was, of course, employed to generate a sense of immediacy and realism while we watch characters battling the demonic forces of Satan. The reality, though, is that you’re more likely to wind up battling boredom throughout this half-hearted horror flick. The premise is full of potential, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired, only occasionally showing slight glimmers of promise.

In October of 1989, seemingly normal wife and mother Maria Rossi (Crowley) murdered three clergy members in her home. Reportedly, Maria is possessed by demons, and the murders took place during an attempted exorcism on her. Not sent to prison over the killings due to an insanity plea, Maria is sent to a mental hospital in Italy. Twenty years later, Maria’s daughter Isabella (Andrade) and documentary filmmaker Michael (Grama) travel to Italy to try and get answers about Maria’s ailment. While the church refuses to help, rogue priests Ben (Quarterman) and David (Helmuth) agree to become involved in the case.

To its credit, The Devil Inside does have its fair share of creepy moments. The opening 911 call, for instance, is insanely bone-chilling, and the exorcism scenes often have an unnerving punch to them thanks to the freedom of the picture’s R rating. Furthermore, Suzan Crowley is genuinely terrific as the crazy, possessed Maria. She looks the part, and gives off a believable devil-possessed demeanour whenever she appears onscreen. These strengths aside, however, The Devil Inside is a total failure. Made on a paltry budget, the money shots are too scattershot, with most of the film concentrating on the mediocre actors as they trade stiff dialogue about church politics. It never really gets into an agreeable rhythm; it’s an episodic flick, moving from one segment to the next without generating any tension or developing an engaging story. All of the characters are flat, coming across as generic fodder for whatever generic events befall them. Horror movies need a solid lead actor. Hell, even 2011’s The Rite had an incredibly hammy Anthony Hopkins to keep us interested. But alas, there is no amiable protagonist here. And although The Devil Inside runs a scant 75 minutes, it’s often too slow.

Also problematic is that, narratively and dramatically, The Devil Inside is nothing new. Instead of concocting an original, twist-laden story of demonic possession, director/writer William Brent Bell and co-writer Matthew Peterman trusted that the “found footage” gimmick would breathe new life into the clichéd narrative. Alas, The Last Exorcism already tried it, and that didn’t work either. All the “phoney reality” stuff does is serve to make the film look technically incompetent. Moreover, the ending is atrocious. A solid ending can make or break a movie, and, unfortunately, The Devil Inside closes on a terrible note which brings the entire production down a few more notches. The ending is a lazy copout, as if the writers ran out of ideas and desperately grasped for the easiest solution. Suffice it to say, it does not work. It’s also amusing that the film closes with proverbial captions elucidating further info about the film’s events as if they was real…right before the lengthy end credit reel revealing who made and starred in the movie. It defeats the illusion. Worse, a caption asks us to visit a website to find out more about the “ongoing investigation” of Maria Rossi. Are you fucking serious? Talk about contempt for your audience…

As with most all found footage productions, the camerawork here is often shaky and irritatingly frenetic. This even extends to the conversational scenes – it often seems like the cameraman is suffering a fucking seizure. Plus, the realism of the documentary technique is at times thrown to the wind. When Isabella first visits her mother, for instance, Michael cannot be seen by the hospital’s surveillance camera when he should be in plain sight. And there are a few instances of cuts during talking, as if to imply that two cameramen were present. One must wonder how much better off the film might have been without the found footage approach altogether. If it was shot in a more traditional style, The Devil Inside could have been a halfway decent horror movie since we would have at least been able to see what’s happening. What we have instead is a lot of bad lighting, grainy close-ups, and shaky framing. Ho hum.

3.8/10

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