This Friday was Friday the 13th, so it only seemed appropriate to go to a horror movie. Unfortunately, the only horror movie playing was The Devil Inside, which I rejected last week because it seemed too much like The Exorcist. Nothing’s changed between then and now, except for the fact that stacked against this week’s offerings: Joyful Noise and Contraband, The Devil Inside seemed downright appealing (though still exactly like The Exorcist).
A young woman goes to Vatican City, where two rogue priests offer to help her possessed mother, who killed three people during an exorcism in the 1980s.
Now that I’ve seen the whole movie, I realize that my assessment of it being like The Exorcist wasn’t completely accurate. In fact, it rips off a number of different movies, including The Last Exorcism, The Blair Witch Project, and The Rite. So it’s nothing new, but I’m still glad I saw it instead of Contraband.
I have to say, though I still like The Blair Witch Project, I’m really tired of the whole “found footage” horror subgenre. Once was original, twice was tolerable, and now we’re into the territory of downright annoying. It’s especially annoying when they can’t even make it look properly documentary-esque. Maybe docs looked all scratchy and jumpy in the 90s when Blair Witch came out, but we’ve left the VHS era behind. Check out at documentaries like Inside Job, and Waiting For Superman. They’re slick, steady, and expensive looking.
Therefore only the 1980s prologue is appropriately filmed.
Michael (Ionut Grama) the “filmmaker” in The Devil Inside (easily identified because of his clichéd filmmaker scarf) doesn’t even seem to have done any research. Early interviews are subtitled with such redundancies as “ordained priest” and “board certified psychiatrist” (like there’s any other kind) in lieu of their actual titles (i.e. head of psychiatry at Valu Kareer Kollge).
Also, if you want people to suspend their disbelief enough to accept your film as a documentary, you’ll probably also want to have your characters act more like real people than the boneheads lacking in self preservation instinct that usually populate horror films. The Devil Inside is a perfect example of what not to do. Doctors allow Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade) to be shut into a room with her estranged mother Maria (Suzan Crowley), a triple murderer with a history of violent outbursts.
I’m sorry, Miss Rossi, but it will be scarier for the audience if we don’t supervise this visit.
Two priests Isabella randomly meets in Exorcism 101 class in the Vatican, Ben Rawlings (Simon Quartermain) and David Keane (Evan Helmuth), offer to allow themselves to be filmed performing unsanctioned exorcisms, and it’s only when Isabella asks them to revisit her mother’s case that they start freaking out about what the Vatican is going to say if it catches them sticking their noses where they don’t belong.
What? This documentary is going to be on TV?? BUT THE POPE HAS A TV!!
As if the characters weren’t bad enough, the film also has to telegraph everything that’s going to happen later. Pay attention to the lessons covered in the Exorcism 101 class Isabella attends early in the film (I know, I know, EXORCISM CLASS). It pretty much lays out the entire plot for you.
TEACHER: There’s such as thing as multiple demonic possession.
YOU: So… Maria’s got more than one demon in her.
TEACHER: And you have to be careful of transference when you’re exorcising it.
YOU: So Maria’s extra demons are going to jump out into the rest of them.
That’s it, lean over nice and close so no one will be surprised when you turn up possessed later.
In an attempt to outdo The Exorcist, The Devil Inside makes sure there are plenty of demons to go around. A priest is trying to do an exorcism? Now he’s possessed! A doctor comes in to restrain the patient? Now she’s possessed! A marching band is walking down the street? Now they’re possessed! It’s like a demonic swine flu, for crying out loud. It gets a little (read: a lot) ridiculous, especially near the end.
BEN: What is it, Isabella? You want to have a staring contest?
Apparently even the filmmakers realized things were going to hell in a handbasket (so to speak), but instead of sending the script back for a rewrite, they just… stopped making the movie. The ending is even more abrupt, irritating, and unsatisfying than The Last Exorcism – it’s just a black screen and a URL where you can find “more information” (i.e. merchandise and ads). There’s not even a closing credits song. Did they run out of money??
Obviously, by this point, you’ve figured out that The Devil Inside is not good. It’s not scary. It’s not tense. It’s not original. It doesn’t make much sense, and the ending will piss you off. Therefore I don’t need to wear out my fingers typing a warning to you not to go see it. Instead, I will tell you that Joyful Noise and Beauty and the Beast are looking mighty appealing in comparison. Not Contraband, though. That still looks like a pile of crap.