By: Addison Wylie
The marketing department behind the campaign hyping the recent Horror movie The Devil Inside deserves a raise or at least a cold glass of beer (their choice, of course). I say this because they have managed to successfully pull the wool over our eyes and have convinced the paying public that The Devil Inside is a highly effective and consistently frightening flick.
I’m one of the victims. When I first saw the trailer in front of Paranormal Activity 3, I was sinking deeper and deeper into my chair. When my Fiancee leaned over and said she wanted to see it, I issued her an answer peppered with expletives and hesitation. The trailer had scared the pants off of me as well as other in the theatre.
Now, the movie is out and all of those pant-less people have collected once again to see what’s sure to be a creepy “found footage” movie.
As the movie begins, we see “police footage” from a brutal murder scene from October 30, 1989. The murders have been committed by Maria Rossi, played by Suzan Crowley, and they happened during an exorcism that was being performed on her. Soon after, Rossi was sent to a psychiatric hospital in Rome.
Instantly, the audience sees through the facade. By now, movie goers have caught on and aren’t easily fooled by these “found footage” films and walking into the theatre, we know these events aren’t real. However, Director/Screenwriter William Brent Bell and his additional Screenwriter Matthew Peterman drastically want audiences to believe this is real and will go above and beyond to accomplish this goal. The problem being that the duo is trying way too hard to do this and because of how ludicrous the story is, the seams are easily seen.
It also doesn’t help that the editing process has been brushed off because of this unneeded stress. The visual effects added to the crime scene footage to make it look dated (tracking lines, snow) are so obvious, it’s going to make it incredibly tough for theatre patrons to buy into what’s going on. Lord forbid aspiring editors are sitting in the audience; they might start thinking of similar effects (or better effects) that can be found on bare bones computer software.
I would’ve appreciated Bell and company to take a deep breath and tone down on the aggression to constantly remind us that these are “real people”. The reason why the Paranormal Activity movies work well is because subtle yet detailed effort is applied to make audiences believe that these scares COULD be performed by ghostly figures or possessed people. If the filmmakers behind The Devil Inside would’ve thought outside the box, like, perhaps shooting the older footage on an older camera or, perhaps tone down on some of the camera shakes during the modern footage, then maybe we could invest ourselves a bit more.
Twenty years later, Rossi’s daughter Isabella, played by Fernanda Andrade, along with a “documentary” film maker decide to travel to Rome to find out more information about her crazed Mother and what exactly went on the night of the murders. She’s worried that there may be bad genes and she may follow in her Mother’s footsteps. She begins to dabble in the theory behind possessions and exorcisms and soon befriends two budding priests, played by Simon Quarterman and Evan Helmuth. The two priests, who conduct unauthorized exorcisms around Rome, are soon talked into performing an exorcism on Isabella’s Mother.
Unfortunately, because we can’t fully invest ourselves in this world, we can’t connect to the story. That aside though, even if the creators nailed the look of the film, the heavy-handed writing and direction would sink this clunker.
Bell’s direction is stagey and the script he’s working with sounds like it’s been cited out of many textbooks word-for-word. The movie is far too interested in talking about exorcisms rather than actually showing them. And, when procedures are finally performed, they end up coming across as dull, because the half-wit characters have been spending most of the movie reciting theory. It’d be like a magician telling you how he pulls a rabbit out of his hat and then showing you the magic trick as if you’ve never heard about it before.
When patients lash out and demons start to take over their vulnerable bodies, the movie does nothing new to surprise us and if these actors decide to scare us using contrived jump scares, they’re ineffective because Bell’s timing is off (both in a directorial and editing sense) and most likely, the scares were in the trailer (and edited better).
The Devil Inside’s studio, Insurge, wants to focus on producing micro-budget films. That’s fine but these small time movies must have enough material to sustain a theatrical length. The Devil Inside is around eighty-plus minutes and is barely releasable. It does not have enough fuel to reach the finish line. Instead, it peters out and displays what could possibly be one of the worst endings in modern cinematic history.
Walking out of the theatre, you can’t help but feel you’ve “been had”. You’ve been fooled into thinking one thing but suddenly a roundhouse kick of amateur cinema comes full force and you become enraged. If this is Insurge’s business plan and many films reminiscent to this terrible waste of time and theatre space are going to be released, then we’re in trouble, guys and gals.