Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Devil Inside

Warning: do not watch The Devil Inside hoping for a feature-film treatment for the 1988 INXS music video.  I think we can all acknowledge the brilliance of such a film, especially when revisiting the source material:
Sadly, The Devil Inside is yet another recent found-footage horror movie, only this one focuses on the concept of possession and exorcism.  As a bonus, this film is "inspired by true events," which is undoubtedly true, particularly if you consider the box-office success of The Exorcist and Paranormal Activity "true events."  Let's face it: found-footage movies are rarely good, and exorcism movies are usually steaming piles.  But when done right, a movie like this can really sneak up on you.  Does The Devil Inside accomplish this?  A thousand times, no.  Spoiler: you shouldn't watch this movie, and I will discuss the ending.

The Devil Inside opens with some of the most hilarious bits of prologue I have ever seen.  The filmmakers would like to make the audience aware that A) the Vatican does not authorize filming exorcisms B) the Vatican does not endorse this film and C) the Vatican did not aid in this film's completion.  Each one of those claims is uniquely amusing.  A) takes it for granted that the Vatican endorses exorcism, which I found hilarious...until I tried to dig up some facts on the issue.  There don't seem to be any.  I couldn't find anything that convinced me that the Vatican endorsed or condemned the practice, which was probably the most disturbing experience I had with this film.  B) is funny because it's not like failing to gain the Pope's thumbs up has ever impacted any movie, ever.  C) I enjoyed initially because I pictured some Cardinals or the Pope working as production assistants.  However, the ending of this movie is so bad, it can be accurately stated that neither the Vatican nor the filmmakers aided in the completion of this film.
Above: a common reaction to paying close attention to this plot

Anyway, The Devil Inside begins with some crime scene footage, shot in the 1989.  "I didn't know small town police stations video taped crime scene investigations," you might say.  That's a good point, but if that is the last inconsistency you find in this movie, consider yourself blessedly ignorant.  It seems that  three priests were killed in an exorcism gone wrong, and the possessed woman was arrested.  Oddly enough, she never made it to court because the Catholic Church shipped her off to Rome to live out her days in a special psychiatric hospital.  Because that sometimes happens.  Three days after the exorcism, the possessed woman's husband died, too.  Spooky, right?  Twenty years later, Isabella Rossi () has come to a very natural decision.  She is going to help make a documentary about exorcisms and demonic possessions, and she is going to go to Italy with her cameraman, Michael () to learn more about mommy dearest.  They immediately befriend a pair of rebel priests, Father Ben () and Father David (), who actively engage in exorcisms.
Fact: suspect boards are essential to exorcising demons
Well, that was easy, right?  Almost as easy as it is for Isabella to switch from wanting to learn about her disturbed/possessed mother to wanting these new friends to perform an exorcism on her.  There is one slight problem, though: it seems that the Church does not sanction exorcisms unless the demonic possession can be scientifically proven.  Let that sink in for a moment, file it away under "mock later," and continue on, because if you stop every time this movie is dumb, it will take days to finish.  To illustrate their point, Fathers Ben and David take Isabella and her cameraman with to a real exorcism because of course they allow strangers to witness and document their incredibly secretive acts.  It goes off pretty well, aside from the possessed woman (the prolific film contortionist ) gushing blood from her lady garden, saying nasty things and (not surprisingly, given the actress) making her body bend in ways it wasn't meant to.  With that experience under their collective belts, proving that Isabella's mother () is legitimately possessed and then exorcising her demon should be a piece of cake, right? 
Somebody wants cake...!
If you've seen an exorcism movie before, you know damn well that any film's main exorcism is never that easy, and by now it should be obvious that The Devil Inside is not going to provide many surprises.

The acting in The Devil Inside is bland at best.  is mediocre in the lead role, but at least she is convincing as someone who doesn't really know much about exorcisms, which puts her on the same level as the audience.  She plays frightened well enough, but her "Real World" confessional moments are pretty bad.  gets precious little screen time, since he is holding the camera for almost the entire movie, but his character was awful.  You know who should never whine about people not liking them?  Idiots who don't ever stop filming their friends in uncomfortable moments.  If the script intended for this unseen character to be worth hating, it worked surprisingly well.  and were both decent as exorcism priests, but they certainly don't steal any spotlights from the underwhelming main character.  That just leaves the two possessed characters.  was easily my favorite actor in this film, although describing her work as "acting" may be a bit of an exaggeration.
"Unpleasantly twisting" is a bit more accurate
Still, her was the most effective part in the film, without a doubt.  had the role of crazy possessed woman, and she hammed it up to the degree that the role (more or less) demanded.  She wasn't bad, but this type of role has been done better elsewhere, so seeing a third-rate version was less than thrilling.

The Devil Inside was directed and co-written by .  What amazed me most about his direction in this movie is just how much filler there is.  It feels like this movie is filled with about 40% B-roll footage, with the remainder being a blend of suspiciously familiar footage that could have come from any number of other exorcism movies and some shots of Bell's unappealing actors going through the motions.  The acting in this movie, while not atrocious, isn't very good.  The camera work in this movie is of the found footage variety, so that's not good, either.  The pacing of this 83 minute film is slow and there are no surprises and there is no suspense.  Bell did a bad job making a bad movie.  Worse than the directing was the writing.  
Yes, it's that bad
It was a generic exorcism script that added nothing new or exciting or vaguely interesting to set The Devil Inside apart in any way.  Well, except maybe with its low quality.  The whole story is filled with questionable "facts" and character motivations, but the absolute worst part of this film was the ending.  With about ten minutes left in the film, it becomes clear that demons can switch the bodies they are possessing by breathing in another person's mouth.  Wouldn't that be something covered earlier in the movie?  In a better film, yes.  Since it is very easy to walk up and breathe right into another person's open mouth (I must do it thirty times a day!), the demon is naturally jumping from body to body.  The heroes get a demon-possessed body into a car and start driving to...the Vatican exorcism ER, I guess...when the demon possesses the driver, and drives the car into oncoming traffic, presumably killing everyone inside.  The screen goes black.  Now, that is a hilariously awful way to end a movie.  Any movie.  But then, before the credits roll, a title card comes up, telling the audience that the Rossi family case is still unresolved, and to check out a website for further developments in the case.  If you go to the website now, it is offline, but more timely reviews describe it as a pretty generic movie site with the sort of material you might look for if you were deciding whether or not to go see the movie.  Of course, since you are directed to check out the site after watching a bad movie with a hilariously stupid ending, that extra work is significantly more aggravating.

 The Devil Inside would be a terrible movie, even without the comically misguided attempt at cross-platform marketing tacked on the end.  The best thing about this movie was the sound effects when Bonnie Morgan was contorting herself.  Unfortunately, there are 82 other minutes in this film.  It's not a crime to make a familiar movie, but if you're going to rip someone else off, try to add something interesting to the mix.  Make the demons talk like pirates or something; write the script in iambic pentameter; give the entire cast handlebar mustaches --- I don't care, just make your movie different enough to be worth remembering.  All I will remember about The Devil Inside is the hilarious title cards before and after the movie.

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