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Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Devil Inside (2012) review

All images: google images


Fernanda Andrade (Isabella Rossi), Simon Quarterman (Ben), Evan Helmuth (David), Suzan Crowley (Maria Rossi)

Directed by William Brent Bell

The Short Version: Just like THE LAST EXORCISM (2010) before it, this movie centers around demonic possession but lacks the rural setting of that moody little spooker. DEVIL has a wider reaching plot even if it never quite grasps its full potential settling on cheap scares bolstered by several shots of unsettling imagery and a couple of genuine shock moments. Beneath the surface, there's a plot hole or two and even some minor religious political rumblings. Saddled with a frustratingly abrupt ending, this picture will most likely be just as divisive as some of the other 'Found Footage' flicks among audience members. The feeling some folks get may not be THE DEVIL INSIDE, but instead an upset stomach for paying $10 to see a movie that would make a better dish served on DVD for the more demanding viewers.

In 1989, police uncover a gruesome crime scene after receiving a chilling 911 call. The bodies of three people--two clergymen and a nun--are found brutally mutilated at the hands of Maria Rossi, the owner of the house. Twenty years later, Rossi's daughter, Isabella wants to learn what became of her mother on that terrible night. Mysteriously relocated to a Rome mental facility, Isabella and her video-ographer, Michael, travel to Italy where they join up with two priests, Ben and David who secretly, and illegally, tackle the cases of demonic possession forsaken by the Church. Not long after a harrowing ordeal with the possessed mother, Ben discovers that not only is she possessed, but that her body hides four powerful spawn of hell.

This is yet another in an increasingly long chain of 'Found Footage' movies, or 'Mockumentaries' that are spreading like a contagion to both theaters and DVD players across the country. All the ingredients are here such as the title cards that profess this to be a true story and the ubiquitous documentary interview segments and shaky cam theatrics. One thing can be said of these kinds of pictures and that's they seemingly all can be counted on to have a downer ending. In some cases, said ending is jarringly abrupt. Both apply here and the latter is especially frustrating. With the budgets getting bigger, the plots getting thinner and the CGI getting more extravagantly lousy, audiences expect more and more from theatrically released movies these days. Taking that into consideration, THE DEVIL INSIDE will likely be a massive disappointment for many moviegoers.

However, despite a few plot holes and some telegraphed moments, Bell's movie has an expansive, far reaching storyline that's too ambitious for its meager 80+ minute running time. The talky stretches may try the patience of some viewers, but some intriguing plot points make their presence known only to be drowned out in religious jargon and grotesque imagery. The moments of horror are mostly reserved for the last half and even then, the film simply ends right when it begins to gain momentum. This near disastrous closing sequence was possibly intentional as it leaves the door open for a sequel. Judging by the 34.5 million weekend haul (it took in $2 million at midnight showings alone), a second chapter is likely to happen. Still, it's a given that more than a few groans will be heard once the lights suddenly come back on after a final title card tells the audience to go to for more information about the unresolved case.

While it does feature a handful of 'Boo' moments, many of these come off as cheap shots inserted to remind the audience they are watching a horror movie. These consist of such cinematic condiments as sudden loud noises or dogs jumping up on an iron gate. The few exorcism sequences, though, while spewing a spooky moment or two, are more disturbing than scary. Bones are popped and contorted, multiple voices are heard emanating from the parched lips of the possessed and one poor girl soils her pants prior to scurrying up a wall like a spider. The satan scene stealer is Suzan Crowley as the creepy Maria Rossi, the woman whose body conceals multiple murderous entities. The fact that Ben (the dedicated priest practicing the eradication of evil in secret with his partner, David) discovers there are four extremely powerful denizens of hell residing within her foreshadows horrible things ahead since we also have four protagonists. Not to mention the theory of multiple transference looms large over the film.

It's also worth noting that this is a pick up from Paramount (who reportedly paid a paltry 1 million for it, more than the cost of the film itself) and released through their Insurge label which is designed to handle modestly budgeted pictures such as this one. What's curious about this is that the 'Found Footage' style of horror movie has seemingly supplanted the slasher flick as the dominant force in terror cinema these days. Whereas Paramount, which became an embarrassed and unwitting home to Jason Voorhees and his cut-up crew back in the 80s, have now embraced(?) the new killer in town since anemically financed endeavors such as these bring with them a tidy revenue stream.

THE DEVIL INSIDE breaks no new ground, nor does it give us anything we haven't seen before. It's not a bad movie, but far from a great one. There's a few effective moments scattered throughout, but it isn't skin-crawlingly scary (the best moments are in the trailer including the ending) like some of the bigger guns of this ilk. It does have one thing so many of these 'Mockumentaries' do not have and that's a globe trotting feel about it. Bell's movie greatly benefits from some grand Italian locations. The film doesn't take near as much advantage of these as it could, but the Euro setting does give this low budget flick some additional value. Difficult to recommend, this will appeal to devil movie specialists and those with a 'Found Footage' fetish. The feeling you get in your gut after it's over with may not be the devil, but a moderately unsettling feeling of creeping deja vu or possibly a bad case of demonic frustration.


Aaron said...

I've been hearing bad things about this movie all over the place, which means I have to see it and I'll probably end up liking it. I kinda like found footage movies anyway, but I think I'll wait til it comes out on DVD.

venoms5 said...

I liked it, Aaron. It was entertaining enough, just nothing all that original about it. I think the biggest problem most people are going to have is the ending. I would be willing to bet this was planned in the hopes of making more than one, though, at least that's the feeling I got from it.

The Film Connoisseur said...

Demonic Frustration, thats hilarious man! I look forward to it, as you know, I'm a fan of supernatural horror films, and if they are well done, even better. Sad to hear that it doesnt offer up anything new, but if at least it offers up some spooky imagery and atmosphere...I'm there. I hope it wont dissapoint too much!

Agree about new horror being all about found footage films. I guess every generation has their thing. The eighties was all about slashers, the seventies about supernatural horror, the nineties was a returning to the slasher (albeit less gory) and now, the new generation has embraced the more "reality based" found footage film.

Looking forward to this one, thanks for the review.

venoms5 said...

Hey Fran! You were the first person I thought of when I was writing this. I think you'll like it; parts of it, anyways. I'm anxious to hear what you think of it, buddy!

Kaijinu said...

disturbing is enough for me, buddy. And I do love a good religious horror once and a while. keeps mah faith strong and my religious life interesting in a vile way. haha.

venoms5 said...

Sorry for the late response, kaijinu. I enjoy the religious horror pictures myself. I'm not religious at all, but do believe the subject makes for a good horror movie!

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