I’ve seen my fair share of both found footage movies and exorcism movies. I’ve enjoyed some (The Last Exorcism, Grave Encounters, Paranormal Activity 2/3) and others have left me wanting for more (The Rite, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Gacy House). Like The Last Exorcism, The Devil Inside is a combination of found footage and exorcism films. Having been excited by the trailers, and delighted by the chills instilled in me, I went into the theater with high hopes. Did The Devil Inside succeed where most exorcism films have failed me? Did it manage to deliver an entertaining story within the constraints of the found footage genre? Read on to find out!
The Devil Inside
Director: William Brent Bell
Release date: January 6, 2012
The film centers on the beautiful Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade, whose IMDb credits sadly consist mostly of one-episode appearances in shows like The Mentalist and CSI: NY) trying to find out what really caused her mother Maria (Suzan Crowley) to kill three members of her church during an exorcism in 1989. She heads to Italy, where her mother is kept in a medicated stupor, with Michael (Ionut Grama), the man she chose to document her experience. While there, she visits a school for exorcism, where she meets Fathers Ben (Simon Quarterman) and David (Evan Helmuth), who take her into the underground world of unsanctioned exorcisms. After witnessing them perform a successful exorcism, Isabella convinces the two men to reassess her mother. What follows from there leads all of them down a dark, dark road none of them could have foreseen.
The acting in The Devil Inside was quite believable. Isabella is clearly tortured by what happened to her mother when she was a child, Ben strongly believes the church needs to change its laws, David is torn between trying to do what’s right and being excommunicated, and Michael is stuck in the middle as the fly on the wall who begins to regret having taken the job. However, the standout star is certainly Suzan Crowley. Whether she was possessed or crazy notwithstanding (that would be spoiling), the woman gave me the creeps virtually every second she was on the screen. The first scene with her, when Isabella goes to visit her in the mental hospital, was absolutely sensational and chilled me to the bone. The woman has been in a whole lot of stuff I’ve never heard of before, but hopefully this movie will bring her into the spotlight.
The movie consists of a lot of talking, but it has several fairly impressive events to prevent things from getting tedious. The conversation Isabella has with her mother in the hospital, the exorcism Ben and David bring her along for, the reevaluation of her mother, and a very excellent showdown with the police are all tense and certainly pretty scary. As I’ve mentioned in other articles, I have a hard time knowing what’s scary and what’s not but judging from how low in the seat my friend Lizzy was scrunched, I’d say that these scenes were pretty scary for the less jaded of us horror fans.
What follows next may qualify as spoilers, so you may want to skip the paragraph. I saw the film at 9:00 PM on January 5th at my local AMC, which of course meant seeing it with an entire theater of obnoxious college kids home from school on winter break with nothing better to do than fart all over my movie-going experience. I don’t normally bring up the audience in my reviews, but this is important. When the movie ended, everybody seemed surprised by the ending in a rather negative way. Lots of “Are you fucking serious?” going around. To me, it begged the question, “Have you people ever seen a found footage movie before?” I’m pretty sure every found footage film ends the same way. I won’t come right out and say it, but the song’s kind of been the same since Cannibal Holocaust, guys. It’s called “found footage,” not “here’s the completed footage that we shot without any major complications.” Good thing too, because that would be a mouthful. Okay, maybe-spoilers are over.
That said, I liked the ending. It was done very well, and far more interesting than out-of-the-blue endings from other found footage films like The Blair Witch or The Last Exorcism.
At the end of the day, it comes down to this: I enjoyed this film. Will it be on my Top Ten of 2012 by year’s end? Probably not. Will I watch it again when it hits DVD? Probably. It was believably acted and had genuinely creepy parts. Again, I come back to the first scene of Isabella and Maria in the hospital. That right there is horror film-making at its best. It’s creepy, unnerving, and makes you dread what will happen next. The film managed to keep that vibe through the scarier portions and I commend it for that. Little things like whatever Ben’s dark secret is and the last act ‘revelation’ Isabella makes to the camera about Michael fell flat, but for every scene like that there’s one like when Isabella finds David sitting in the dark eating…something. And another thing, faulting it for being a little preachy at times feels silly, considering half of the main characters are ordained priests. Bottom line: if you’re a fan of horror and/or found footage, check out The Devil Inside. It’s not the best of either genre but it’s certainly not the worst.