Saturday, August 18, 2012

Horror Film Review

The Devil Inside (2012):  A disclaimer at the beginning of this mockumentary-style exorcism flick says it was made without the Vatican's assistance or approval.  Does that mean the Holy See is nervous that tightly held secrets will be revealed?  The filmmakers would like us to believe that, but I think the truth is more simple.  I think the Vatican recognized that The Devil Inside was going to be a huge steaming pile of donkey poo and wisely steered clear.  I, on the other hand, not only didn't steer clear, but stepped in it.

Two priests and a nun are found murdered in the basement of a house where they were performing the rite of exorcism on Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley).  She's arrested, found not guilty by reason of insanity, and shipped off to a mental hospital in Rome.  Why?  Why sent to Rome when the Church refuses to even consider the possibility that she may be possessed by a demon?  Don't know.  It's not explained.  Daughter Isabella (Fernanda Andrade) decides to to make a documentary with cameraman Michael (Ionut Grama).  They head to Rome, sit in on an exorcism class for priests, and meet a couple of fathers who are performing the rites without the Church's consent.  Father David (Evan Helmuth) is straight-laced and scared they'll be discovered and he excommunicated.  Father Ben (Simon Quarterman) thinks the Church as lost touch with reality, that it has become a totally hypocritcal institution.  Isabella meets with her mom in her nuthouse room where some freaky things happen.  The doctors refuse to release her back to America (no explanation) and also refuse to entertain the possession notion.  So Ben and David manage to convince the hospital to let them meet Maria for their own "examination."  They try the exorcism ritual on her.  Let's just say it doesn't go as well as they hoped.  The priests are booted by the docs.  Later, while performing a baptism, Father David tries to drown the baby in the baptismal font.  Yep.  You guessed it.  He's now possessed.  The cops come for him, he gets a gun away from them, and blows his own head off.  Then...yep, you guessed it.  Isabella's now possessed.  They rush her to a hospital thinking she's having a seizure.  While there, she kills a nurse.  Ben and Michael sneak her out during all the confusion and decide to take her to Father Gallo (Claudiu Trandafir), the guy who teaches the exorcism class.  So Michael's driving fast, Ben's in the back wrestling with Isabella, and then...yep, you guessed it.  The demon jumps into Michael, who steers the car into the path of an oncoming truck.  Ben wrenches the steering wheel to the side and then all we see are shots from inside while the car rolls over and over and over.  That's it.  The end.  And then before the end credits roll, they have the balls to put up a website saying go there if you want more info about the case.  If the filmmakers had been sitting next to me, I would have kicked them in the plums. 

If I'm honest, The Devil Inside held my interest for quite a while.  Right up until Fathers Ben and David sneaked into the hospital to exorcise Maria.  I cannot abide outright stupidity.  And the jumping far as plot devices go, it's the absolute worst one to use if you want to convince an audience your story might possibly be real.  A demon jumped into the priest at the end of The Exorcist.  One jump, and it worked very well.  It wasn't playing musical humans.  The Exorcist was based on a true story, and even though not shot documentary style, it felt more real than The Devil Inside.  And a hell of a lot more scary. 


Acting:  The performances are way too polished to be realistic as a documentary.  Crowley as Maria is over the top.  Like Mt. Everest over the the top.  Quite the coincidence that the lady possessed by a badass demon has Crowley for a last name.  At least I hope it's a coincidence...
Story:  Been there, done that, seen that, hated that.  (To be fair, The Rite, which has a very similar plot, was quite good.  Of course, that was mostly thanks to Anthony Hopkins.)
Direction:  Just...all kinds of wrong.  Many scenes should have been longer in order to build the requisite tension.  Example:  Until David dunks the baby in the font, we have no clue anything's wrong with him.  From that scene in the church until he eats a gun is maybe five minutes.  From that scene to Isabella's possession to the end is like another ten minutes.  You're sitting there thinking, what the hell just happened?  The paltry 83-minute running time just makes no sense.
Production Values:  They're fine, which also makes no sense.  Since it's supposed to be a documentary, the quality should have sucked more.  Isabella drives by St. Peter's Square a few times to prove she's really in Vatican City.  Otherwise, they filmed in Romania.  (Beats the hell out of me.)
Gore/FX:  The crime scene walk-through at the beginning was fairly grisly.  Quite a lot of blood when Isabella killed the nurse.  No gore, really.  A number shots where the possessed bend and twist their bodies into impossible positions accompanied by cracking sounds.  I think we're supposed to wince, or something. 
Scares:  The scene that will make you jump the most is when Isabella's walking down a sidewalk and a German Shepard barks at her.  What's that say about the film?
Ending:  Car crash.  Everybody dead?  Maybe.  Will you care?  Nope.
Verdict:  Should you see The Devil Inside?  Gads, no.  Go watch The Rite or The Exorcism of Emily Rose or better yet, The ExorcistThe Devil Inside is not as maddeningly awful as The Last Exorcism, but it's pretty damn close. 

Rating:  1 out of 5

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