Considering that found footage films rely on convincing their audiences that what they are watching actually happened, it is surprising to me that more films have not explored the subject matter of exorcism. There have been some, The Last Exorcism most notable among them, but for the most part, found footage films have steered clear of the art of expunging demons from the possessed. That makes The Devil Inside an anomaly of sorts because it deals with the subject matter head on.
The Devil Inside starts out in 1989 with footage from police cameras and news reports at a grisly crime scene where three members of the Catholic Church were seemingly murdered by Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley). Maria is deemed insane and, for some reason, carted off to Rome to be treated by experts. Fast forward to present day, Maria’s daughter Isabella (Fernanda Andrade), finds out from her dying father that the murders her mother committed took place during an exorcism. And so Maria sets out for Rome to explore the case, complete with her documentarian friend Michael (Ionut Grama).
The setup is solid enough but the film quickly squanders it. There are a number of story points that just do not fit with the overall film. Filming segments of an exorcism class run by the Vatican, introducing the audience to a pair of rogue priests that perform exorcisms outside the authority of the Church, and a hospital that allows anyone with video cameras to come and examine their patients. It all seems overly convenient and staged, which goes against the very nature of the found footage style of film making.
Even worse though is the fundamental filmmaking that takes place. Michael is supposed to be a documentary filmmaker chronicling Isabella’s discoveries, yet he somehow manages to have worse camera work than some high school filmmakers. The camera shakes all the time, even in interview segments where it should have been mounted on a tripod.
As bad as the stilted plotting and amateur filmmaking is, The Devil Inside could have overcome them if it had managed to be even slightly scary. It is not. When the scariest part of a supernatural horror film is a dog barking, things have not gone very well.
The entire production screams amateur hour. If someone were to have told me that The Devil Inside was a senior film project, I would not have been surprised. It would not make the film any better but at least its execution would be understandable. There is no excuse for writer/director William Brent Bell and his writing partner Matthew Peterman, the duo responsible for the reprehensible video game horror film Stay Alive in 2006. They have been around long enough that they should know better.
Found footage films are cheap to produce but there are examples of the style working quite well. There is little doubt that the subjects of possession and exorcism fascinate movie going audiences, it is just a shame that Hollywood preys on those audiences with drivel such as The Devil Inside. Ending aside, The Last Exorcism handles the subject matter in such a way that puts this film to shame. If you are looking for a solid film of this ilk, go watch that instead.
1 / 5