The Film: The Devil Inside (2012)
The Principles: William Brent Bell (Director/Co-Writer). Fernanda Andrade. Suzan Crowley. Ionut Grama. Evan Helmuth. Simon Quarterman.
The Premise: Maria Rossi (Crowley) is committed to an asylum after being convicted of three grisly murders…that she committed while she was receiving an exorcism. Was she possessed? Is she still possessed? Why did the Church get involved? 20 years later these questions still aren’t answered, so her daughter Isabella (Andrade) wrangles a cameraman and the two of them head to Rome to see what they can find out.
Is It Good: No-ish? That’s not even a word, but it’s surprisingly difficult to come down on one side or the other. It’s not boring, but it’s not altogether entertaining. In fact it starts off rather compellingly, with a prologue featuring audio of Maria’s 911 call-slash-confession played over crime-scene footage of, well, the crime scene. It’s a cheap and amateurish move, but it’s effective enough, and it helps set the tone to keep some sort of momentum going.
In fact, a lot of the movie operates under that odd sort of combination. In scene after scene we’re treated to generic drama, generic (and painfully overused) possession exposition, generic scriptwriting and generic performances. But Bell has this sort of naturalistic pseudo-talent in a mockumentary setting and manages to hit enough resonant notes to keep things relatively interesting. When it’s not making you roll your eyes, at least.
I call it a pseudo-talent because what he doesn’t seem to understand is that documentaries tell stories in a decidedly different way than traditional narratives, and there comes a point where it’s obvious that he’s writing the latter but never stops shooting the former. The two intersect in a weird, clumsy way somewhere around the end of the second act which only serves to hobble everything, forcing it to limp to a total cop-out of a non-ending that’s almost remarkable in its impotent audacity.
Is It Worth A Look: Probably not. Even if you’re like me and are a sucker for possession movies and have a penchant for the occasional Shitty Movie Sunday it still doesn’t have much to offer. There’s one exorcism scene that stands tall on the merits of the contortionist playing the afflicted (and the sound design that accompanies her disjointed movements because ohmygod) but that’s about it.
I suppose in a lot of ways this is a particularly superfluous write-up as I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know, but in case you were curious your time is definitely better spent elsewhere.
Random Anecdotes: I really am a sucker for possession movies so I would like to make a suggestion to all you would-be screenwriters out there: stop feeding us information that we’ve already heard a thousand times in a thousand movies as if we’ve never heard it before. If your possession script has a character that’s earnestly delivering all of this information then do yourself a favor and start that shit over.
Cinematc Soulmates: The Last Exorcism (I did really enjoy this one, for the record). Exorcismus. The Rite.