“The Devil Inside” is a crass attempt to cash in on the “found footage/fake documentary” horror craze that requires only a few good moments to be culled for the trailer in order to make millions of dollars on opening weekend. Never mind that the film is actually a stinker with bad acting and every cliché in the book (not the Bible, the other book – The Book of Better Film Rip-Offs). Once word gets out, Paramount will have made their money. They won’t care that they foisted a sub-par product onto the public. They won’t care about the negative reviews. They got what they wanted. The shame here is not how bad the movie is (it happens), but how small the ambitions are (we’ll make a buck before they know what hit’em). Cue sad film critic shaking her head in disgust.
The film opens promisingly enough. We watch what appears to be police footage of a crime scene in which several people were brutally murdered during an exorcism. The woman is tried, found insane, hospitalized, and then moved to a hospital in Rome. Yeah… that last bit sounded unlikely to me, too. This was the first red flag. See, I’m just not sure the government of either country would agree to such a thing or that it’s even legal, but okay… moving on.
Her now-grown adult daughter (who’s just as doggone cute as a button) wants to go to Rome to find out more about her mother, and of course decides to take along a cameraman with her to document this event. The fact that her mother is a drooling, incoherent, violent lunatic doesn’t seem to stop the hospital staff from leaving this girl alone in a room with her. More red flags, but okay. Some creepy footage is shot of devil-mom and voila! – they’ve got their trailer and poster! Mission accomplished.
Oh wait, now there has to be an actual movie in order to sell tickets. Okay, fine. What ensues is a lot of arguing amongst the exorcist priests, the daughter, the documentarian, and four – yes, four different scenes of exorcisms. That could have been cool, I guess. Gotta figure if they’re gonna do it four times we might be in store for something we haven’t seen in an exorcism movie before. If you thought that, you’d be wrong. Oh wait, we got to see some menstrual blood. That’s new, I think. So, where were we… Oh yeah, we also get a lot of dialogue like, “The electricity’s gone out! Bring the camera for light!” to excuse the fact that people are dragging a camera around when they should be running for their lives.
Then this thing called “transference” begins to happen. The demon jumps form devil-mom to other people. Scary, right? Well, no, not really, because one immediately wonders why the demon stayed inside of this locked-up woman for 15 years if they have the capacity to hop around so much. Why didn’t they inhabit a doctor who could REALLY do some damage out in the world? Oh, silly me, using logic.
So a bunch of this transference stuff happens and it’s not hard to guess that eventually all of the lead characters will succumb to demon possession at some point. As the logic-defying moments start adding up at a rapid-fire pace, they throw in one to take the cake. A demon-possessed person murders a nurse in the E.R., the hospital staff runs to care for the nurse, leaving the demon-possessed person writhing on the floor in the hallway alone so the priest and documentarian can scoop her up and put her in a car… because that’s just what hospital staff would do, right? Leave the person who committed the crime alone and writhing on the floor in the main hallway without calling security or even bothering to tend to her as a patient.
Just so very bad.
By the time the “climax” happens, the laughs are coming one after the next. You know that thing where demons who possess humans always like to throw people’s weaknesses and secrets up in their face? You know, that old thing. Well, it happens a lot here, like in the speeding car near the end of the film. The priest asks incredulously, “Who are you?” and the demon responds, “Everybody knows who I am.” Really? You’re THE DEVIL? And all you got is demon-possessing some nobody housewife and sitting in a hospital for 15 years then possessing her daughter and friends in this crappy car that’s going nowhere? Really, Satan? That’s the best you can do? Note to the next person who makes a movie about the devil: At least have the guy bring his A game.
I’m a huge fan of Roger Ebert who has always asserted that he “never reviews the audience,” meaning that as a film critic, it isn’t his job to tell readers how the audience reacted when he saw the film. That’s a good policy in general and normally I would agree. But in this case, I can’t resist the urge to tell potential movie-goers that the preview audience snickered when the movie was supposed to be scary. By the end, I literally felt embarrassed for the filmmaker. But make no mistake, this isn’t that campy bad kind of movie like Troll 2 where watching it is amusing in unintended ways. You won’t feel amused. You’ll feel ripped off.
Which leads me to this last bit. There is a chance the filmmaker thought he was making a good movie. I don’t know. I’m not sure what’s worse: thinking this is good, or not even bothering to aim for good. I honestly can’t tell which of those crimes he has committed here. What IS clear is that Paramount most certainly knew what they had on their hands. Seriously, the lead actress is so bad that she goes through the film in a kind of pleasant stupor with a blank look on her face even when the most horrific things are happening around her. The only time she really emotes is when she loses her keys. (I’m not kidding.) They knew. They HAD to know how bad it was. But you see, they didn’t care. They had 60 seconds of good trailer footage that would ensure them loads of cash.
Meanwhile, thousands of beautifully rendered films come and go from film festivals across the country but do not land distribution because they don’t fit so neatly into a target genre, or demographic, or they don’t lend themselves quite so easily to an attention-grabbing trailer. So much beauty, wonder, wit, and talent (or even scares) go unseen because the powers that be don’t think you or I are smart enough to appreciate them.
You see, folks, Paramount’s philosophy is one of two: 1) sure it’s bad, but we’ll dupe enough people with the trailer to make a bundle, or 2) audiences are so dumb they won’t even notice that we just fed them a steaming pile of shit.
I’m not sure which is more insulting.
I know one thing: Evil, thy name is greed.