I wasn’t anticipating the BD staff being so overtly excited for The Devil Inside, and with that I present to you three more reviews (one being a video review) for the found footage exorcism film that’s breaking the bank. Two take Evan Dickson’s corner, while one thought it was fantastic. Where do you stand? write your own review here.
In addition, according to THR, the flick is scaring up massive business at the domestic box office, where it’s now on course to open as high as $30 million. This is a huge change from the original numbers. Heading into the weekend, Paramount indicated that Devil Inside would open in the $8 million to $10 million range, but that number has been revised upward in light of the film’s midnight performance Thursday night, followed by strong matinee business. Devil Inside earned $2 million in its midnight runs.
Get over it people, found footage horror is here to stay (and I’m OK with that). Now read on for a trilogy of new reviews! Review #1 by: Don Allen (2.5 out of 5 Skulls)
Review #2 by: THEoDEAD
Often times it is far too easy for horror fans, casual or diehard, to step out of a movie theater and make rushed and unwarranted judgments based upon whatever feeling(s) he or she felt during their viewing experience. As a critic on a semi-professional level I can also accept and understand that this is a fault that affects not only your average movie goer, but those within my own profession as well. Too many times you will hear critics ramble on and on about how some film by (insert up and coming director here) is the best thing they’ve seen since they pissed their pants in their parent’s basement after they watched HALLOWEEN for the first time. Everyone is guilty of this premature (Read – unwarranted) enthusiasm, myself included. Opinions change. Just as most people develop and grow over time, so do thoughts, feelings, and emotions. C’mon, I’m not reinventing the wheel here, and if you haven’t already gathered these things on your own at this point then you obviously need to get out more. That being said the mixture of adrenaline and awe that is still surging through my veins as I hastily jot down my initial thoughts after seeing William Brent Bell’s THE DEVIL INSIDE serve as a bitter reminder that human emotion and adrenaline can be as bitter a tonic as one can imagine when awakened within the proper individual. For me, a person whom some look to and trust for an honest, unabashed opinion of these films, to sit here and tell you that I am at a loss of words is cliché, and therefore I will spare you the slow water torture of furthering that statement with insincere bullshit. What I will tell you is that after sitting in a theater full of screaming, shaking, and most certainly terrified peers, is that Bell has achieved something that almost no one in modern day cinema has recently – he has taken an age old sub-genre and turned it on its head in such an effective manner that any film dabbling in demonic possession following in its footsteps will have one hell of a time avoiding its shadow. THE DEVIL INSIDE is not just the imminent 15 minutes of hype that it is on the eve of accruing, or just another mockumentary film threatening its viewers with several haphazard sequels strategically placed throughout the better half of the next decade; it is a game changer.
*MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD*
THE DEVIL INSIDE documents the tragic journey of Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade) as she journeys to Rome where her mother Maria (Suzan Crowley) has been institutionalized for the past 20 years after murdering 3 people in her home during an exorcism performed on her behalf. Isabella, whose knowledge of the incident had been restricted until fairly recently, enlists the help of a documentary filmmaker named Michael (Ionut Grama) in order to unravel the mystery of her mother’s exoneration from the country following the events, and in the process meets Ben (Simon Quaterman) and David (Evan Helmuth), ordained priests who are actively studying the art of exorcism under the guidelines of the Catholic Church. The young woman captures the attention of the men with her mother’s tragic story, and after exposing her plight to them they reveal that she is not the only person in Rome who has secrets. While on the surface it would appear as if the two are honest, practicing men of the cloth, Ben and David are not as blind in their faith as they may seem. Working under the nose of The Vatican, the two of them seek out and attempt to cure those individuals whose afflictions have been deemed by the church as matters of the mind, not those of the spirit. It is from here that Isabella and Michael are dragged unwittingly into a world nothing could have ever prepared them for.
Admittedly the formula is a simple brew, presenting itself with all of the normal ingredients that have made the faux-documentary genre so successful as of late. Nameless actors playing everyday people, a cameraman with aptly shaky hands, and enough jump scares to send teenage girls worldwide into a screaming fit that will slowly evolve into relentless nightmares for days to come. It’s all here, and Bell has obviously done his homework as every one of these aspects feels polished and new, breathing a much needed second wind into the genre. Immediately THE DEVIL INSIDE evokes comparisons to the Eli Roth produced LAST EXORCISM, a film of which I fear most will unfairly compare it to. While it is true that both films are formulaic in that they are most certainly a mockumentary, it is important to note that there is a higher power at work here. While THE LAST EXORCISM attempted to shine a realistic light upon the topic of demonic possession by blaming the phenomenon on mental illness based upon the perspective of its protagonist, THE DEVIL INSIDE successfully presents fans with an argument bigger than its 90 minute run time can contain. Are the horrifying acts performed by the individuals afflicted an illness curable through medications and science, or must we put aside our own skepticism and respect the fact that there are things at work that are beyond our control? Can we stave off our own prejudices for the sake of the people who are suffering? Where, and how, do we arrive at this revelation, and most importantly, what can we as human beings do in order to combat it? It is these questions that are the underlying driving force behind the film, and the discussion to be had once you have come to terms with your feelings on the film itself.
So now we arrive at the inevitable question, and no doubt the entire reason why you are reading this in the first place. THE DEVIL INSIDE is a roller coaster by definition, and I am not throwing that metaphor around just because it was an easy catch all. From beginning to end William Brent Bell and his rag-tag group of actors have created a film that shatters every mold that has been established by Hollywood since the turn of the millennium. While most films of its ilk are raw and unfinished looking things that cater to the found footage phenomena laid down back in the 90s with THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, Bell has paid special care to making his movie truly feel like a documentary. The first half of the film does a convincing job of selling the based on true events shtick, taking the time to weave together fake stock footage from the quote unquote real crime scene, and then parlaying that into interviews with experts on the subject. These scenes never feel forced, and at times the attention to detail is downright impressive. Furthering its superiority over its predecessors, THE DEVIL INSIDE does everything within its power in order to keep itself from giving you motion sickness, not allowing itself to spiral into a clumsy mess, and giving viewers a bird’s eye view of each and every horrifying event that besets the films’ cast.
The ability to buck the trend and avoid the stereotypes of its genre should be the main draw to Bell’s film. While films like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY will slow burn their way to a stunning climax, THE DEVIL INSIDE packs more money-shots into its compact run time than every one of those films combined. Opting for the shoot first, ask questions later approach to storytelling, Bell allows himself to immerse you in the evil that is demonic possession, and the severe consequences therein. If you thought the finale of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 was shocking, then you haven’t the foggiest idea of what you are getting yourself into when you step into a theater to see this film. Gore hounds will not be disappointed either as there are more than a few scenes where the film steers away from its psychological hook, and pulls a savage uppercut that will catch you on the chin each time. In fact, by the time you have invested yourself into the characters, which you will, the film will pull the rug right out from under you and take yet another sharp turn. Though none of them come as much of a surprise (The film does little to paint itself in a mysterious light, and if you are capable of thinking clearly you will undoubtedly be able to predict many of the situations towards the film’s third act), it is the manner in which the film chooses to present them that makes them shine. Predictable or not solid film making is still solid film making.
While THE DEVIL INSIDE does everything right the entire way through, and do not get me wrong, this is as honest an effort to be the best horror film of the decade as we have been given thus far, Bell falls short of a perfect score for what including what is easily the most infuriating ending I have seen in my life. I loathed every single second of the film’s attempt at a climax, and had it not been for those final 30 seconds, you would be reading the final line of this review as this is the best horror film of the generation. I get the feeling that I’m not the only one who feels this way, and if the screams and groans of my fellow movie-goers are any evidence of this fact, then it would seem that the film missed the mark worse than a Shaquille O’Neal free-throw. I realize that the very nature of the genre dictates that we are subjected to this sort of pseudo masochism, and it is as much a part of the formula as anything else, but when I say that it is a letdown I am in no way understating the fact. However, much of the outrage (at least from this viewer’s perspective) can be blamed on the fact that unlike THE LAST EXORCISM and the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise, I found myself so enthralled by the film that I hardly noticed as it powered its way to the finish line. Either way – viewer beware.
When all is said and done THE DEVIL INSIDE is the quintessential horror mockumentary of the new millennium, and quite easily the best exorcism film ever made since the best exorcism film ever made. It is THE EXORCIST for the ADD generation. A knockdown, drag out, ball buster of a film, and a true testament to everything that true horror films are. It is thought provoking, unnerving, gruesome, raw, and above all else it is emotional. If there is any one horror film you beg, borrow, and steal your way into in 2012 it should be this one. Make no mistake, THE DEVIL INSIDE is good. It’s so good that it’s scary, and if you can look past the abysmal ending, then there is enough here to like to warrant the ticket price, and please even the most skeptical horror fan. Just as long as you know going in that you will be disappointed by the film’s lack of a climax.
4 out of 5 Skulls
Review #3 by: Brad McHargue
Exorcism films have become a common trend in genre film and, much like their zombie counterparts, they’re becoming overplayed. With the success of The Last Exorcism and other low-budget affairs, it’s no surprise that Paramount snatched it up in what is a clear attempt to emulate the massive success of the Paranormal Activity franchise. Unfortunately, whereas Paranormal Activity was, at the very least, relatively scary and possessing a modicum of originality, The Devil Inside is just mostly boring and possessing one of the worst ending in modern cinematic history.
Presented in a bizarre mockumentary/found footage way, The Devil Inside opens with a 911 call placed by a woman named Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley). Confessing to the murder of three individuals, she is arrested and eventually sent to an asylum in Rome. Her daughter Isabella (Fernanda Andrade), upon learning of her mother’s crimes two decades after the fact, flies to Rome with a cameraman (Ionut Grama) to investigate after being told the people she killed were attempting to perform an exorcism on her.
Drawing obvious inspiration (and in one scene almost blatantly stealing from) a number of exorcism films both old and new, The Devil Inside is a slow affair, held tenuously together by a handful of moderately interesting sequences that culminate in the biggest middle finger to an audience in recent memory. Trim twenty minutes off the first act and, oh, I don’t know, actually include a third and the finished product might resemble something other than the convoluted mess that it is.
And that’s what’s so disappointing about the film. Even if you hate the found footage genre, and even if you’re tired of these trite exorcism films, you can tell the filmmakers had their hearts in the right place. Unfortunately, much of the film falls victim to enough contrived twists and utter predictability to make even the mildly creepy exorcism and possession scenes nothing more than a brief respite for continuing disappointment. In the end all the passion in the world can’t save you from that.
The performances on part of the possessed were admirable, and at times downright good. Suzan Crowley and Bonnie Morgan, both of which play our dearly possessed, bring a level of fear to the film that, unfortunately, could not be sustained throughout. While one might be content to blame the poor acting of the main cast, or the numerous interruptions in the action featuring the characters staring blankly into the screen, I would be more inclined to blame the indictment of the Catholic Church that simply oozes from the two main exorcists (Evan Helmuth and Simon Quarterman) throughout the majority of the film. While I’m all for making a point, it simply wasn’t subtle enough to be effective. Had it been dialed down a bit then perhaps the lazy writing, wherein our intrepid heroes find themselves up against a virtual war with the Holy See, could have been replaced by something a little less…well, stupid.
Once the film finally reaches the end, you’re expecting something great, something to make the preceding hour and a half-worthwhile endeavor. Instead you’re given the most massive case of blue balls you’ve ever experienced. Do the filmmakers hate us, or did they honestly think the way they chose to end the film was the right thing to do? It’s baffling, and downright insulting.
The Devil Inside is simply a bad movie. While a couple of moments might keep you interested, its sloppy script, bad acting, and terrible ending make it a horrible way to kick off the 2012 run for theatrical horror films.
1.5 out of 5 Skulls
Fan screening of The Devil Inside in Downtown LA on January 5th. Little did the audience know that one of the characters from the movie was sitting right there in the audience, waiting to scare the pants off of them during one of the most extreme scenes.