Directed by William Brent Bell (Stay Alive , Sparkle and Charm) who co-wrote the screenplay with Matthew Peterman (Stay Alive) The Devil Inside is the latest in a long run of ‘found footage films’ which have been presented as ‘documentaries.’
Considering that this film opened theatrically on 6 January 2012, it is pretty amazing that the film has garnered over 101 millions dollars gross profit to date. The film was made on a budget of 1 million dollars. By anyone’s calculations, that is an excellent return of investment.
The producers of The Devil Inside, were very clever in their marketing campaign and ‘lack’ of preview screenings for critics. This ensured a strong opening, so strong in fact that they knocked Tom Cruize’s latest Mission Impossible sequel off it’s three week run at first place. Despite the strong opening, word of mouth soon decimated the numbers of folks who wanted to see the film. They dropped a very impressive 76% in their audience viewing figures by the following weekend.
I downloaded the film and watched it this afternoon. I was surprised to find that I rather liked it. After the bad press this film got from critic’s retroactive reviews, I was expecting a complete mess of a film. It was a little disorganised, to be sure, but it wasn’t that bad.
The film opens with with a 9-1-1 call and footage from a 1989 murder scene. The first few moments deal with a multiple murder that is covered by local television news and we get to see the police comb the area for clues. The film then jumps forward about twenty-one years and we meet the daughter of the woman who murdered the three people whose corpses we met at the very beginning of the film.
Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade) is the daughter of Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley). Maria, we learn, killed the people who were from the Catholic Church and were attempting to exorcise her. It went, obviously, very wrong. Maria is moved to Rome to be cared for by the Church’s medical facilities.
Isabella is taking part in a documentary being shot by Michael Schaefer (Ionut Grama) and they are going to Rome to meet momma Maria. After arriving in the Vatican city, Isabella joins an exorcism theory class being taught by a Priest to a roomful of theological and psychiatric students. In a move that can only be translated as a huge sign post, the padre circles the last category of his lesson which is Multiple Demonic Possession.
The only thing the priest did not do was to smack the circled word with a pointer and yell, “This is important! I will be asking questions after the class.” We, the audience, see that this ‘important’ possession is going to feature later in the film.
After the theology class, Isabella joins a small group of novice priests and other theology students and they talk about Exorcism‘s and how you cannot really learn anything about them in a classroom setting. Two of the priests, Ben (Simon Quarterman) and David (Evan Helmuth) are best described as ‘renegade” men of the clergy. Both the men feel that the Church doesn’t do enough in helping folks who are possessed.
Father’s Ben and David have already performed a number of Exorcism’s that the Church had turned down. Both men have the strength of their convictions and take Isabella with them to an on-going exorcism that they have been doing. While they are performing the ritual on the possessed girl, Michael is filming it and the possessed girl knows Isabella’s name. The girl also walks on the wall and suspends herself over the bed.
Convinced that Ben and David know what they are doing, she asks them to look at her mother as the Church is refusing to perform the ritual on her. After tricking their way into the medical wing where Maria is being held, they set up their equipment and start the ritual.
Maria is possessed by more than one demon and she reacts very badly to the exorcism. After things calm down, they are thrown out of the hospital. Both Ben and David are excited about their ‘findings.’ Ben says that the Vatican can’t deny Maria help now.
Unfortunately that is precisely what the Church does and now they want Maria to be taken back to the US. Meanwhile, David is acting very strangely, eating in the dark dining room and baptizing a baby a little too long in the holy water. Isobella is acting strangely and everyone is upset and stressed out.
The police are after David for attempted murder and he kills himself, Isobella goes into some sort of fit and Michael and Ben rush her to the hospital. While Isobella is ‘resting’ in her room, Ben and Michael are talking to a nurse about how she is doing, the nurse replies that Isabella is stable and resting.
While the nurse is talking to Ben, we see staff rushing to Isabella’s room. She has attacked a nurse and it is taking several members of staff to try and control her. She eventually fights her way out of the room, only to be brought down to the floor. While she is lying face down on the floor, she gets bent so far backwards that it’s amazing that she isn’t broken in half.
Ben and Michael get Isabella in the car and drive to get help to exorcise her. While Isabella attacks Ben, Michael takes his seatbelt off and deliberately crashes the car at high speed.
Fade to black.
Reading various reviews on this film, I noticed quite a few critics slammed the ‘very quick ending’ and pretty much panned the entire film. I felt the ending worked well with what was going at that point in the film.
My problems with the film were many, but, not enough for me to not enjoy it. One problem I’ve already written about and that was the ‘this is important’ clue about Multiple Demonic Possession. A little too obvious for my tastes, something akin to killing a fly with a sledgehammer.
It was also obvious from the first time we meet Father’s Ben and David, that their motives for helping Isabella aren’t for the most selfless reasons in the world. Ben wanted to prove the Church wrong and David wanted to show that they, he and Ben were right. I know that at first glance, it seems like they want the same thing, but there is a difference between the two men and their hidden agendas.
At the end of the film, after they attempted to drive Maria’s demons out, everyone who was in the room became ‘infected’ so to speak. David, Isobella, and Michael all begin changing, with David bring the most obvious and quickest. The film makers also deviated from the ‘verse’ of exorcism films.
From the very first Exorcist in 1973, the demon (or demons) attack only the people directly performing the ritual, the priests. In The Devil Inside the demon attacks everyone in the room with a primary target of death for each person it possesses.
The film was meant to look like a documentary cobbled together from ‘found footage’ and it is to the film’s detriment. Too many other films have used this format and it is rapidly turning into a stilted cliché. It is also just one more film to add to the growing list of Exorcist films already out there.
The Last Exorcism (which actually did the documentary theme a hell of a lot better), The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Last Rite. All of which were, in my humble opinion, better films.
The Devil Inside was choppy, uneven and the ending did indeed feel a bit rushed, but that did not bother me as much as the illogical direction that the film veered off into. It did have a fair share of scares and creepy scenes in it, but not enough to warrant any further viewings.
The cynic in me believes that the producers decided to abstain from critic previews and teaser trailers to hype up the films opening weekend. This strategy appeared to have worked very well by their box office receipts. I can see why audiences were ultimately disappointed by this film. But really, it doesn’t come near qualifying as the worst film in 2012.
Of course I could be wrong.
- A Movie Review: THE DEVIL INSIDE – Godzilla versus the Smurfs (marjoriekayesbookblog.com)
- As Bad As You Thought?: The Devil Inside (houseofgeekery.com)
- The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel (wolfslair88.wordpress.com)
- The Devil Inside explore the realities of exorcism (ghostvids.wordpress.com)
- The Devil Inside – 20012 (jdcwitherton.com)
- Bad Movie Tuesday: The Devil Inside (moviesfilmsandflix.com)
- Mark Kermode’s DVD round-up (guardian.co.uk)