Director: William Brent Bell
Studios: Insurge Pictures, Prototype
Starring: Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman, Evan Helmuth, Suzan Crowley
Tagline: No Soul Is Safe
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: thriller, possession, found footage, documentary, religious occult
Scare score: C-
Plot overview: Isabella Rossi (Andrade) has decided to find out the circumstances surrounding what led to the death of three clergy members twenty years earlier during an exorcism that was being performed on her mother, Maria (Crowley). Enlisting the help of cameraman Michael (Ionut Grama), Isabella begins to make a documentary about exorcisms, which she explains have virtually controlled her life since her mother was taken to a hospital in Rome and her father died only three days after revealing to her that her mother had been involved in an attempted exorcism. In Rome, Isabella is reunited with her distant and oddly behaving mother as well as two priests, Ben (Quarterman) and David (Helmuth) who have been performing exorcisms without the Church's approval in order to help the possessed victims. Together, the group of four will work to try and help cure Isabella's mother.
I wasn't crazy about this movie. It was more boring than exciting throughout the majority of it, filled with easily foreseen scares and stock ideas from standard exorcism plots. Actually I guess I'm not crazy about most exorcism movies because there is only so much you can do, or perhaps I'm better off saying there's only so much we've seen done. This movie barely moves away from the dozens of exorcisms-seem-to-have-gone-right-but-actually-went-wrong storyline we've seen in the past.
The acting isn't great in this film. I couldn't get interested in Isabella's situation because she seemed like a distant and prude character who was trying too hard to be Mila Kunis. Whenever she or Ionut Grama as Michael had confessionals I felt like I was watching freshman projects for Acting 101. Our two priests on the other hand were more dynamic, although all four of these central characters barely showed any skills outside of basic acting emotions; their roles seemed highly constrained. I think Suzan Crowley deserves a lot of credit - I can't say what was her and what was special effects, but the lady's looks are enough to give you chills.
All of the commentary on the Church in this film seemed confusing, confused, and purposeless. I think writers tried harder to make any conspiring, critical sort of commentary than to clearly develop one problem and stick with it. Every time a character asked about the Church and its policies on exorcisms, one of the various priests in the film would respond with a grunt, something along the lines of "The Church doesn't want to help," and then an angst-y dismissal of the question. Uh, alright? The result is a shallow reason as to why two devout men of the Church are performing illegal exorcisms, which forces us to raise an eyebrow as to whether or not they are endangering people.
The exorcism scenes were interesting enough that I found myself tensing up a bit. The various camera angles had us paying closer attention to what might possibly happen next. Other than several entertaining bits, however, I found myself watching a stereotypical and non-innovative exorcism such as I might in any other movie. We can only watch a young girl with a demonic, deep voice insult a priest with sexual remarks so many times. I did enjoy the more complex theory (developed by Father Ben) regarding Maria's possession; thankfully that provided some action and originality.
I'm still trying to decide whether the plot was week or just boring; I think it's a combination of both. Isabella is hard to relate to, Michael is perfectly correct to assume everyone thinks he's the annoying guy with a camera (because that's precisely what he is), and the two priests are all over the place. There was an idea behind this film, but ultimately that idea seems to be "How can we make the most profit on a cheap budget?" The mockumentary/ found footage business will hands down automatically open up your film to a lot of criticism. Once you pair that with a relatively short and relatively uneventful plot, you have a problem. Forget about the ending that everyone seems to hate, I was so detached from the film by the time that we finally arrived there that, while surprised at the abruptness of it all, I can't say I was surprised to not have any of my questions answered. I guess I am most disappointed because they did a really great job marketing this baby. I remember before it came out that it looked really good in trailers and commercials. Tricky ad campaigns.
Final critique: We've seen this before. The Devil Inside is a poorly done rehash of any given exorcism movie meets any given found footage film. Expect to feel a little queasy by the end, not only because of the woozy camera movement, but - to the movie's credit - some gore and blood (specific types of blood considered) as well. If you're in the mood for a slow-paced film with a few good thrills, certainly watch this movie, but don't go in with huge expectations. Otherwise, very few parts are scary or uncomfortable for audiences that scare easily.