The Devil Inside(2012)
(15) Running time: 83 minutes
Director: William Brent Bell
Writers: William Brent Bell, Matthew Peterman
Starring: Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quaterman, Evan Helmuth, Ionut Grama
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
Ok, so I am going to begin this review with a line that is in no way intended to be cheesy or clever, but I must say it: I am now going to play ‘Devil’s Advocate’ and go against 90% of reviewers and say The Devil Inside is actually very good! What? I hear you scream! Honestly? But, everyone says how bad it is, it can’t be good, can it? My answer is, Hell yes it can be good, and it is, very good in fact and the film most certainly does not deserve the negative press it has been getting. I mean, people rioting in theatres in the US, throwing stuff at the cinema screen, spitting on the floor, demanding their money back, it’s ludicrous. Did they see the same film as I did? Oh, and all these complaints about the ending, it just stops! Well duh!! How many found footage films have you seen that wrap up nicely? It-is-a-found-footage-film, do I really need to spell it out?
In case you hadn’t noticed, I am a little annoyed at the negativity surrounding this film, it deserves much better, and with some calling it one of the worst films ever made you have to ask the question: just how many films have they actually seen? Just in the past month I have seen probably ten or more films far worse than this, so come on let’s give this film a break shall we. Now, the fact I went into this wanting to love it but expecting to hate it probably helped me enjoy it more, and the fact that the found footage genre continues to fascinate me also had a big part to play. However, the story, the atmosphere, most of the performances and the actual presentation of The Devil Inside were all of extremely high quality. This is no cheap, rushed movie, there is a lot of care and dedication gone into this, and it is clear Bell and Peterman knew exactly what they were doing, which again is why it is so upsetting to read all these bad reviews. The plot couldn’t be better suited to the found footage genre, so let’s explain.
The film cleverly opens with a 911 call of a woman claiming to have killed three people, and the emergency services quickly head to her address to find three people horrifically murdered. All three were part of the Church, or “The Holy See” as a later Priest annoyingly calls it, and all three were performing an exorcism. The woman who killed them was Maria Rossi, and after a trial she was deemed not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to a psychiatric hospital, and is later moved from the US to Italy, right next to The Vatican. No one ever mentioned her being possessed, and she disappeared into the system, locked away for good. Some twenty years later, Maria’s daughter, the beautiful Isabella (Andrade), finds out her Mother may have been possessed and decides to document her search for the truth and behind exorcisms themselves. After the chaotic opening scenes, the film now calms down and settles in to building up the story, and if you are interested in exorcisms and religion in horror, it rarely gets dull. The pacing is just right, never lingering on one scene for too long, and the shaky camera helps make things appear more frantic. Andrade does a wonderful job playing Isabella and you really side with her and want her to get to the bottom of what happened to her Mother.
Isabella and cameraman Mike (Grama) attend an exorcism class in the Vatican, and here is where the pair meet the main Priests of the film, Father Ben Rawlings (Quarterman) and Father David Keane (Helmuth). The two Priests illegally perform exorcisms, and in a fascinating scene later on we learn how exorcism laws have changed for the first time in 400 years, and now it must be proven that the patient is possessed, something which is becoming harder to do. The shady, underground exorcists are caring, but also deeply troubled by the fact all they want to do is help their patients. These two Priests are magnetic when on screen, and seeing the pain and fear they go through not just from patients, but from fear of the Church itself leads to some outstanding scenes of raw emotion. Their explanation of how to spot a possessed person, and also the class at the Vatican are terrific to watch, and you actually feel like you’re learning something (even though all this talk has been brought up in countless films before)
Isabella manages to track down her Mother, and she is allowed not only to meet her, but to film it, and here the film really gets interesting and the tension levels kick up a notch. Maria is played, ferociously, by Suzan Crowley, and her performance will both astonish and disturb, and the less said the better. Naturally though, Isabella feels she is possessed, and asks for Father Ben and Father David’s help. I am pretty sure you can guess the rest.
Now, The Devil Inside does have a number of flaws, and so I feel it’s best to get them out the way now. For starters the shaky cam: this is one of the most chaotic uses of handheld camera I have ever seen, and even I started to feel a bit queasy come the end, the camera shakes around, goes out of focus and sometimes just films the ground, but I guess it’s the only way to get a sense of realism. The plot is very basic stuff, and you can guess where the film will lead, and even the final twist you will see coming a mile off if you have even the smallest interest in this sort of film. The positioning of the cameraman is at times incredibly lazy, like in the Vatican he manages to film from two different angles at once! Also the filming in The Vatican itself, I thought it wasn’t allowed, no matter who you are? Finally, Father Ben Rawlings, who starts out as a very interesting Priest as he talks about his past and current situation, will eventually ware down your patience. It felt like he just gave up his acting abilities as the film went on.
However, saying all that let’s not forget the good stuff, and believe me there is lots of it. The overall mood of the film is very menacing, full of dark streets, dimly lit rooms, creepy sound effects where needed and the lonely, desperate story of the Priests and Isabella. The whole atmosphere feels like The Devil has already won, like Father Ben says “I have seen The Devil much more than I have seen God, why is that?” This film feels like evil forces are lurking, and it doesn’t take long for them to rear their ugly faces. The special effects are terrific, and with the use of a girl who can twist and break her limbs in an exorcism scene, made to look very real. The characters are interesting as they all question religion and their own faith, the setting in Rome is perfect and feels haunted, and when we do get to see an exorcism it is very hard not to be frightened. The scares here are not as full on as the trailer made out, but when they do come, they are very well timed and horrific.
The Devil Inside is a brilliant piece of work which has sadly become the film everyone loves to hate. Shame on you: this may not be the best film the genre has to offer, but it is certainly one of the good ones. I loved it, and maybe on second viewing I might pick a few more holes in the film, but for now, after watching this for the first time, I can honestly say that The Devil Inside is far better than I was expecting.