Review: There's Nothing New to Talk About With 'The Devil Inside'
by Jeremy Kirk
January 5, 2012
Exorcism movies have pretty much run their course at this point. The idea and execution has become so bland, so predictable, that a film better have something extra to add along with all the holy water and body contortions. But, evidently, these movies make decent enough money, so we still have to have a new one every year. Usually dumped in January. Which is why Paramount / Insurge brings us The Devil Inside, directed by William Brent Bell, the latest film that tries to scare us with all the old creepy trimmings.
Told as a mockumentary - not 'found footage', since there is a difference - the film attempts somewhat new hat, but the execution never gets off the ground, the whole thing comes off just as bland as the subgenre it finds itself in, and just when things start to get a little crazy, i.e. interesting, the rug gets pulled out from under the whole audience. Most of it, though, is just bland, uninteresting convulsions brought on by bad actors in priest's garb spouting poorly designed dialogue.
The Devil Inside begins in 1989, where crime scene footage and news reports inform us of an exorcism gone wrong. A middle-aged woman lashed out at those around her while being exorcised, killed three of them, and ended up in a mental institution in Italy. 20 years later, her daughter travels to Italy with a documentary film maker in an attempt to help her. The daughter comes across a pair of priests who are performing unsanctioned exorcisms, because they feel the Catholic Church is not doing its duty in bringing demonic possession to light. As with any good horror movie, things get hairy, nothing is as it seems, and then the violence starts.
But director William Brent Bell, who also brought us 2006's horrendous Stay Alive, has no feel for the camera and even less for his actors or screenplay - he co-wrote this with Matthew Peterman. Exposition flies like pea soup, caking the audience in obvious knowledge and foreshadowing. Once the characters begin receiving important knowledge from a literal lecture, you know you're in troubled waters, and that's early on.
The mockumentary style of film making could have been an interesting angle. The opening sequence that plays exactly like pieced together news footage and found footage, provides the creepiest moments of the film. A feature length version of that while still including footage of police officers walking through the crime scene would have been far more interesting.
But once the documentary angle kicks in and we begin following the girl, the illusion disappears. The cameraman shakes sporadically and fiercely, never letting the camera rest on a single thing for long stretches of time. It's like the moments in The Blair Witch Project where they're running through the woods only while you're just having a conversation with someone. Bell works way too hard to make this appear to be a documentary. However, on the other side, it's not a documentary at all when people are dishing out dialogue one line after another, no interruptions or talking over one another, clearly defined lines of poorly delivered dialogue.
The scenes involving the rogue priest's exorcisms offer nothing new. It's the same lines of vulgarity spewed from a young girl, the same moments of limbs and bodies being twisted in inhuman directions, the same bits with priests shouting passages from the Bible that made this such a has-been subgenre in the first place. Bell doesn't offer anything new. He doesn't even try to offer anything new, and early in the film you find it easy to check out from venturing further into this banality.
A scene early in the film where the daughter goes to visit her mother in the hospital is quite creepy. Suzan Crowley, who plays the mother, should be noted for her portrayal of a mentally unstable woman who may or may not be possessed by something horrific. She's calm at first, merely making strange noises with her mouth, as her daughter, played by Fernanda Andrade, tries to communicate with her. You never know quite when she might snap, and that puts you on enough of an edge to be uncomfortable. It's a moment of creepiness, an unnerving that never comes out again.
And then the end comes, a conclusion that begins to get your heart racing and your eyes interested just before smacking you in the face with a cut to black. The film seems to literally end mid-sentence, which is nothing new to this type of movie. But the way it's done, the fact that it comes after such a bland 80 minutes, makes one question if it wasn't an intentional choice.
There's nothing to talk about within the bulk of The Devil Inside, nothing to mull over after you've left the theater. Much of the film is so jading as to be completely forgettable. But if the film figuratively gives the audience the finger, they'll have something to discuss. There will be something to remember. It's an obvious choice, almost a cheap one, but congrats to whoever decided to do it. It's certainly being talked about now.
Jeremy's Rating: 4 out of 10