Last night word quickly spread across the internet about how sneak preview audiences were reacting to the new found footage horror film The Devil Inside: they were booing it. Across the nation people who had seen the film for free booed it upon the appearance of the closing credits.
For those hoping this means The Devil Inside is bad on some legendary scale, I am sorry to tell you that it is only bad on a pretty normal, poorly made level. It has your run of the mill awful acting, a slightly stupider than usual script and the sort of spasmodic camerawork to which we have become accustomed in these cheap, cash-in found footage movies. It’s a pretty standard soulless piece of crap designed only to get asses into seats on Friday night so that the producers can run home with your money.
The film is ostensibly a documentary spearheaded by Isabella Rossi, a woman whose mother killed three clergy while being exorcised a decade ago. The film opens with some effective crime scene footage of the event and then jumps to the here and now; Isabella’s mother currently resides in a mental hospital in Rome, and so she journeys across the sea to visit her, bobbing and weaving cameraman in tow.
A side note here: most found footage films purport to be amateur footage, which at least gives something of a reason for the darting camerwork and focus issues that moron filmmakers think add ‘tension’ to their bad movies. But The Devil Inside is shot by a documentary filmmaker... who still cannot keep his camera still while doing straight on interviews. He’s a filmmaker without a tripod.
In Rome Isabella meets some exorcists (this part I don’t get - one of them is an ‘ordained exorcist,’ yet we’re introduced to him as a student in an exorcism class. This feels like a physicist taking a Physics 101 course just so he can show off to the frosh) and then visits her mom in the hospital, who displays symptoms of being poorly directed and possibly getting all of her acting training as a ghost in a spook house outside of Akron, Ohio. Then there are some exorcisms and some bullshit and the movie ends.
Possibly the most remarkable thing about The Devil Inside is how it squanders a decent premise - the exorcists that Isabella meets are rogues, performing exorcisms outside of Church jurisdiction because the Holy See has gotten too scared to keep performing the rite. There’s a germ of a concept there, especially since the movie spends some time giving lip service to the idea that possession might simply be mental illness. A movie where these priests must face the consequences of doing more harm than good could be a movie worth seeing.
That isn’t this movie. This is a really lazy movie. The characters are broadly sketched (when they have interpersonal conflict towards the end it’s amazing because I wasn’t aware these people had personalities with which to have conflict), the scares are dime a dozen jumps and the creepiness is predicated on you finding contortionists to be nightmare fuel. The movie has nothing to say about faith or the Church, it has nothing original to say about possession and it has no real new ways of approaching the found footage stuff. It’s really rote, a generic movie if ever one existed.
As for that ending: here there be very, very minor spoilers. The movie ends quite abruptly, although in a way that I think is typical for half-assed found footage movies like this. The offensive aspect seems to be that after this abrupt, uninteresting finale a title card comes up telling audiences to ‘follow the investigation’ at TheRossiFiles.com. That feels like a scam - people paid money to see this film, and they should be getting the whole thing. The Devil Inside is basically two acts out of a three act movie; just as the characters are hurrying off to the climax the film ends. Without the title card it feels stupid, with the title card it feels like Paramount is spitting in your face as it pockets your money.
I wish The Devil Inside was worse, because that would probably have meant the filmmakers were trying. If the movie were batshit or made really bizarre wrong choices I would feel affection for it. Instead the movie shows no sign of effort. The director and writer, William Brent Bell (he co-wrote with Matthew Peterman), are the people behind the abysmal video game horror movie Stay Alive (starring Frankie Muniz!), so it shouldn’t be surprising that this is a slack movie without imagination.
Apollo 18 felt like the bottom of the found footage barrel being scraped, but The Devil Inside simply feels like cynical, talentless nobodies trying to weasel their way into the hot fad. In some ways it’s pure classic exploitation, but unlike the titans of old time exploitation, the guys behind The Devil Inside have no idea how to give the audience a damn thing they want.