The Devil Inside
Let’s be honest, horror movies released in January don’t inspire much confidence. The chances of seeing a quality, scary movie this time of the year are on par with the chances of Sarah Palin being elected president (then again, that would be pretty scary). While most films released in the dark, colder months are throw-away movies that will be on pay-per-view in a matter of weeks (if not sooner), every once and awhile a film comes along though that is so heinous that it actually makes you angry that you watched it. "The Devil Inside" will have you seething while exiting the theater.
Another "found footage" film, this time parading as a documentary, "The Devil Inside" fails to deliver on anything. A documentarian follows Isabella Rossi (actress Fernanda Andrade, who ends up looking as if she’s been drugged most of the time), whose mother Maria killed three clergy members during a 1989 exorcism, as she travels to Italy for her first maternal visit in 20 years. Maria is being held in a Catholic institution, having been determined to be insane, not possessed. Unconvinced, Isabella enlists the help of two priests to help her try to save her mother.
The shaky "found footage" gimmick is getting old, as filmmakers have tried to find every possible way to make a horror movie cheaply using this method with varying results. Here, that they at least try to pass it off as a documentary allows for a more polished narrative. It explains things a little more than other films that just happen to catch the action.
However, many of the other movies in this sub-genre actually have better camera work than what is on display here. The shaky, sometimes focus-challenged camera work is worse than any film since "The Blair Witch Project." Using the documentary format does at least give a little bit more structure to the way the filmmakers capture the events - though, let’s be serious, who’d realistically film their first visit with their possessed mother in 20 years?
Making matters worse is that there is no "wow" factor. Director and co-writer William Brent Bell ("Stay Alive") only provide two exorcism scenes in the film. Significant of Bell not properly pacing the action, the first one is actually more intense than the second, which is Maria’s. That exorcism leads into an ending that has no emotional pull because the audience has little sympathy for the characters. In fact by the time the last act comes around, the characters have actually begun to be so unlikeable that when the inevitable happens, you don’t care.
Bell forgets the most important aspect of trying to make a scary movie: People are willing to forgive the predictable, the unoriginal and hackneyed, if you scare them. There’s little atmosphere or even suspense after the opening 911 call (the one plastered all of the marketing campaign). Only one moment with a barking dog gets any kind of reaction from the audience, which included five people walking out of the screening I attended of this 83-minute film. And Bell has crafted one a major cop out ending in which the audience is asked to go onto the web to find out more about the story.
The sound of upset and frustrated filmgoers will be heard loud and clear as the film lets them down at every corner. It’s one thing to create a movie that doesn’t deliver simply because you don’t know better, but the case here seems to be that the filmmakers just don’t care and are looking for a quick cash-in on what is trendy right now. Without any scares, a proper ending or really anything to hold onto, "The Devil Inside" will go down as one of the worst films of the year. But then again, it is January when no decent (i.e. scary) horror film would get released, so what did you expect?