The Devil Inside
dir. William Brent Bell
Release Date: Jan 06, 12
The Devil Inside only accomplishes one positive feat in its 87 minutes: It makes 2010’s very similar The Last Exorcism look like a horror masterpiece by comparison. Where that film utilized the “found footage” conceit rather well until failing to stick the landing with its ridiculous finale, Inside eclipses that film’s ending in abject stupidity while failing to generate any real scares beforehand. Aside from one sequence involving a demon-induced suicide, which is effectively unnerving, Inside wavers between comically overblown and outright offensive to the senses. It’s truly remarkable how genre filmmakers continue to utilize an inherently horrifying premise in the service of cheap scare tactics; the intellect and deliberation of The Exorcist has rarely felt farther away than it does here.
A tale of four delusionally selfish human beings confronting absolute evil, Inside follows Isabella (Fernanda Andrade), a troubled woman whose mother suffered a massive nervous breakdown when she was eight and was institutionalized in Italy. Isabella teams up with documentary filmmaker Michael (Ionut Grama), who clearly didn’t learn how to steadily hold a camera while in film school, to travel and see Isabella’s mother. Isabella’s father, three days before he Died Ominously, informed her that her mother killed three members of her church during an attempted exorcism, so of course Isabella’s first course of action is to travel to exorcism class at the Vatican, which as we’re apparently supposed to know is like junior college for the clergy. There, Isabella meets Ben (Simon Quartermain) and David (Evan Helmuth), two rogue priests who’ve taken up the business of performing underground exorcisms for possessed but denied by the Catholic Church.
Ben and David are both wildly cavalier with their interpretations of religious law, and the film is equally so with the idea that two faithless, questioning priests would have the command of God necessary to kill what’s evidently a powerful demon within Isabella’s mother. (We know it’s powerful because it says bad words and causes ridiculous bursts of contortion.) Nobody in the film is likable in any way; Isabella encounters her ill mother for the first time in twenty years, and uses this time to indignantly probe her for information. The film inevitably descends into histrionics before long, with shaky camera work and CGI gore, as the foursome panics their way through a danger outlined within the film’s first five minutes, one teased in a way that director William Brent Bell clearly found sly. By the time the film reaches its insulting non-climax, it’s just a mercy that Devil Inside had enough restraint to avoid too many cheap jump scares, and ends expeditiously without really hurting anybody. Well, except for the stunt baby that nearly gets drowned in a Hail Mary attempt to rouse the audience from its staggering indifference.