Having seen the trailer for The Devil Inside a few months back, and despite the wholly unenthusiastic reviews that spilled out of the US, it was a movie that I was really looking forward to seeing.
Having reviewed the likes of Paranormal Activity 3, I had kept my expectations for this found footage mockumentary movie in check.. There was such a build up and hype surrounding The Devil Inside that if Paramount got this one right, they could have another success on their hands to equal Paranormal Activity. Quite simply they haven’t.
The synopsis from the official website states:
In 1989, emergency responders received a 9-1-1 call from Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley) confessing that she had brutally killed three people. 20 years later, her daughter Isabella (Fernanda Andrade) seeks to understand the truth about what happened that night. She travels to the Centrino Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Italy where her mother has been locked away to determine if her mother is mentally ill or demonically possessed. When she recruits two young exorcists to cure her mom using unconventional methods combining both science and religion, they come face-to-face with pure evil in the form of four powerful demons possessing Maria. Many have been possessed by one; only one has been possessed by many.
So let me set the scene. I’m sitting in a packed cinema with my girlfriend among an audience that has paid quite a bit of money to be here. Drinks and popcorn in hand. A great cinematic atmosphere and then the movie starts. We are informed that “The Vatican does not endorse this movie”. Oh. Haven’t they? I wasn’t actually aware that the Vatican offered their personal endorsement to Hollywood movies.
Anyway, a creepy 911 tape is played, in which we hear Maria Rossi telling the operator that three people are dead. The police are dispatched to the scene and on their arrival, film the crime scene, catapulting us directly into the found footage, as we are led through and shown the aftermath. Two priests and a nun, brutally bludgeoned to death. It looked fantastic. I thought, “Not a bad start”. It all goes downhill pretty rapidly.
So we are on the way.
We follow Isabella as she attempts to find out what happened to her mother following that bloody night and documents her quest for answers. Why? Who knows? It isn’t explored well and isn’t convincing. However, upon meeting a couple of rogue priests, who believe that the Catholic church isn’t doing enough and so, with cameraman in tow, they set about performing exorcisms, of which there are two, excellently performed by Suzan Crowley and Bonnie Morgan.
All this has to be a recipe for some healthy scares, yeah? Well, sadly, this is an area in which the film is severely lacking. With an exorcism movie you expect to be scared, don’t you? The biggest fright came from a dog jumping up on a fence and barking loudly. If that’s your biggest fright in your exorcism movie something is really wrong. One thing I did like was the interesting angle with the priest trying to incorporate both science and religion into diagnosing demonic possession.
Visually, it looks pretty good for a found footage movie. It has an nice mix of styles, switching between VHS, digital footage and the CCTV footage in the various locations.
The plot plods along until we reach our conclusion and we never really get into the characters, or care what happens to them, as their performances are lacklustre at best, with the easily the best performances coming from Crowley and Morgan, as the possessed but the director, William Brent Bell, doesn’t fully use these to develop any real frights.
And so to the ending. What can I say? The ending is so abrupt that it left me wondering if the production ran out of money or time or whether it was just down to pure laziness. Maybe Bell got bored of his own movie. I know I did.
I’m now back in the packed cinema as the film ends. The audience start booing. It takes something pretty poor to elicit that collective reaction. I could hear grumbles of “What the fuck was that?” My own girlfriend asked me what had happened, feeling that she had missed something and was looking for some sort of explanation for the sudden ending. An explanation that I could not provide.
The hype surrounding The Devil Inside has definitely attracted the crowds, but word of mouth is going to decimate this. Approach with caution.