Mark Reviews Movies

The Devil Inside


1 Star (out of 4)

Director: William Brent Bell

Cast: Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman, Evan Helmuth, Ionut Grama, Suzan Crowley

MPAA Rating: R (for disturbing violent content and grisly images, and for language including some sexual references)

Running Time: 1:27

Release Date: 1/6/12

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Review by Mark Dujsik | January 6, 2012

Here is a movie with a singular purpose: to drive traffic to a website. We'll discuss that element of the movie more at the end, so keep that thought in mind in the meantime, reader.

The Devil Inside is a clumsily assembled, cheaply produced "found-footage" movie that copies and pastes the most basic concepts of dramatic tellings of demonic possession for an indeterminable goal. Formulaic movies are not evils unto themselves, but certainly there's a joke about demonic possession to be made at the expense at this one.

The story follows Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade), a 28-year-old American who travels to Rome to visit her mother Maria (Suzan Crowley) and uncover the secret of her hospitalization. Actually, there's little secret; her mother murdered three people in the middle of an exorcism 20 years prior. She was the subject of the ritual, and the court found her not guilty by reason of insanity. The real secret, left—like so very many of the movie's key questions—a complete mystery, is what power the Catholic Church would actually have over a federal court in the United States that would force said court to extradite her to the control of the Vatican.

This is a movie that believes not only in spiritual silliness but also in plain old silliness, most of the time without even recognizing it. Take, for example, the movie's opening text, which insists that the Vatican does not allow for the recording of an exorcism. This might be the case, but apparently they are all for having Isabella and her documentary filmmaker friend Michael (Ionut Grama) walk into its school for budding exorcists. The topic of the day the moment they walk into the room just happens to be the subjects of "multiple demonic possession" and "demonic transference." Everyone at exorcism school automatically receives a minor in blatant foreshadowing.

At the class, Isabella meets two priests. Fr. Ben Rawlings (Simon Quarterman) is a fervent believer in the cause; Fr. David Keane (Evan Helmuth) is also strong in his belief except when the necessities of conflict require that he is not so. The two men believe there is a massive Vatican conspiracy to keep the reality of demonic possession and the success of exorcisms under wraps (It makes them rogue exorcists, a concept that is as amusing as it sounds). This, of course, makes absolutely no sense. If demonic possession were able to be proven real, as the two priests insist that it is, and if the only "cure" came directly from the services provided by the Church, wouldn't this fact be shouted from St. Peter's Square with accompanying infallible documentation?

After centuries of medical advancements, humans know better about the causes of what were once considered demonic possessions, and the screenplay by director William Brent Bell and Matthew Peterman seems an act of total regression in such matters. One will note that, save for one significant instance, every possessed person in the movie happens to be female. Some of the signs of that they are or will eventually be possessed by evil include a desire for sex, vaginal bleeding, and terminating a pregnancy after doctors insisted she would be unable to carry it to term. There's something potentially subversive about this aspect of the script's reversal to outdated thoughts on literal hysteria; unfortunately, Bell and Peterman just let it play out for the sly bit of sexism that it is.

It's probably unintentional, as deliberately making such a point would entail more intelligence than is demonstrated by the evidence on display. The movie is a string of startle moments. There are obvious setups—a supposedly sleeping woman staring wide-eyed at people oblivious to the fact that she's actually awake, lights going out, and the old trick of asking someone to come a little bit closer—and equally unfulfilling payoffs—people flying across the room, a woman contorting her body in seemingly unnatural ways, and a barking dog popping up from behind a fence. By the time the movie starts diving into the story of the problem with Maria and creating some genuine interest in the story (including a malevolent sense of certainty when a possessed priest starts performing a baptism), it's already over without a single fragment of resolution.

Let's get back to that website. After all is said and nothing is done, The Devil Inside insists that the file of the "Rossi case" is still open and directs the audience to a site. After some perusal, it appears that this site, which contains biographies of the characters as if they were real people, details of the story, and clips from the movie, is little more than a promotional tool for the movie. This is Möbius strip marketing.

Copyright © 2012 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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