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Review: THE DEVIL INSIDE

January 6th, 2012 in Reviews by 3 Comments

The Devil Inside is directed by William Brent Bell and stars Fernanda Andrade, Suzan Crowley, Simon Quarterman, Evan Helmuth and Ionut Grama. It revolves around the subject matter of demonic possession and is shot in the “reality” style of The Blair Witch Project and the Paranormal Activity franchise.

The trailer is absolutely terrifying. Most people in the theater were anticipating watching the movie through their hands with their eyes ½ shut. Unfortunately most people were using their hands to cover their mouths to prevent them from laughing out loud at how absolutely and absurdly bad this movie is.

The movie gets off to a gripping start with a 9-1-1 recording from 1989 of Maria Rossi (Crowley) explaining to the dispatcher that there are three people dead and that she killed them. The following scene was shot from the perspective of the police who were using a video camera to document their investigation of the crime scene.

Good start, great hook.

20 years later we see Maria’s daughter, Isabella (Andrade), now in her twenties, being interviewed by her film-maker friend, Michael (Grama) about her upcoming trip to Italy to visit her mother who is in a hospital for the criminally insane. Isabella explains that she needs to know what happened to her mother the night of the murders because she wonders if she possesses the same genes and might snap at some point as well.

Totally fair concern.

Isabella gets to Italy and goes to visit her mother. She speaks to one of the doctors in the hospital first who informs her that her mother has been diagnosed with at least 7 different mental illnesses and that she most likely has D.I.D. which is Disassociative Identity Disorder. Maria is heavily medicated and appears to not recognize Isabella when she sees her. Maria has been carving inverted crosses into her arm and inside her lower lip as well. This part is pretty suspenseful due to Maria’s apparent insanity and the constant change of camera angles leaving you with the feeling that something intense might happen at any time.

It doesn’t. The creepiest thing that happens is that Maria and Isabella are both seated in chairs when Maria starts scooting towards her. She says to Isabella in a quiet but steady voice, “you shouldn’t have killed your baby; it is against God’s will.” Isabella has not spoken to her mother in 20 years, what is she talking about and how does her mother know anything about her daughter’s life or decisions she has made? This is answered later.

Isabella decides to go check out an exorcism class given by “The Church” which is apparently open to anyone since she just walks into the lecture hall and starts participating in the class. This is also where we get the foreshadowing of multiple demonic possession and demonic transference (demon jumping from one body to another). This is honestly where things begin to unravel because now instead of a straight up exorcism movie we move into the realm of church politics and conspiracy theories. That end up killing most of the momentum built up so far and really never allows any serious momentum to build for the rest of the movie. For shock value movies like this, suspenseful momentum is key and in this film it is pretty much blown.

Isabella ends up having dinner with some of her exorcism classmates and acquires the attention of two priests: Ben (Quarterman) who is a career priest who fully believes in demonic possession and has been doing them since he was a teenager when he would help his uncle with them. David (Helmuth) is a physician and a priest and believes that science and religion can work together to fight demons. The church of course officially doesn’t sanction exorcisms or validate demonic possession but Isabella just happens to stumble upon a couple of rebels. Their performances are actually decent but they end up coming off more like keystone cops than rogue priests (a la Anthony Hopkins in The Rite).

They convince Maria that the only way she can help her mother is if she truly understands what she is dealing with, she must witness an exorcism for herself. Fortunately for her Ben and David have a back room in their apartment where they keep files on demonically possessed people that “The Church” has classified dismissed simply as mentally ill. They take her along to the exorcism of young Rosa (Bonnie Morgan).

Business picks up a little here because Rosa’s body is bent awkwardly like a pretzel, a clear sign of demonic possession. She speaks in weird accents and foreign tongues, also a clear sign of demonic possession. Aversion to holy objects? Check! Unfortunately the scene turns more comedic than scary when Rosa/her demon uses its super-human strength to break free from her restraints (another sign of possession) and proceeds to hop around the basement like a spider monkey. All the while she is mysteriously bleeding from the crotch and spitting out useless and so bad it is funny lines.

Of course Isabella now has all the training she needs to help Ben and David perform an exorcism on her mom which the hospital for the CRIMINALLY INSANE somehow just allows. Her mom plays possum, then reveals herself to house multiple demons and proceeds to deliver my personal favorite line while speaking to Ben, “I’m going to skull-fuck her (Isabella) with your tongue.” Yeah, really.

The Devil Inside starts off with some serious potential to be a successful exorcism movie but goes off the rails and becomes a cheesy cliché of rogue priests and anti-church rhetoric. The trailer is awesome, the movie is not. It felt like seeing a bunch of Mike Tyson fight clips but ending up with the Buster Douglas fight (Tyson got knocked out and embarrassed badly).

Is demonic possession real? What role should the church play in addressing these problems if they are in fact real? You are better off pondering these questions on your own rather than waste your time and money by going to see this film. The premise is intriguing but the execution is just too poor. Also, the ending is just ridiculous.

If this were still the holiday season, out of generosity this film would get 2 stars but since it is already the New Year this film gets 1 ½ stars and it is lucky to get that. It gets the extra ½ star because the style of “real home movie” was not shaky or annoying and was actually used properly.

Author: Mike D