The “found footage” genre of horror has a new addition to its rapidly growing list. Last week The Devil Inside opened in theatres across the US, and attempted to cajole audiences with an array of hand-held camera shots powered by the familiar plot of The Exorcist, and the creepy imagery seen in previous films of its caste such The Blair Witch Project and the popular Paranormal Activity movies. The plot follows Isabella Rossi (played by Fernanda Andrade), a young (rather attractive) woman who is investigating the events surrounding a particular night in 1989, in which her mother, Maria Rossi (played by Suzan Crowley), was arrested for the brutal murder of three people during what is learned to be a failed exorcism. Twenty years after the gruesome event, Isabella and her filmmaker friend Michael (Ionut Grama) are creating a documentary focusing on exorcisms and their relation to her mother’s case.
Their film takes them to Rome Italy, where Maria Rossi is being kept in an insane asylum, and before that a school where priests, science advocates, and studiers of mental illness debate the matter of demonic possession. Questions rise, and after Isabella befriends two of the schools students –the steadfast exorcist Ben (Simon Quarterman) and the faith bound priest David (Evan Helmuth) – she is introduced to the seldom observed world of exorcisms, and by relation the dark truth behind her mother’s condition.
The Devil Inside does an impressive job of utilizing camera angles and presenting the audience with a slew of creepy, multi angled views of the action and character responses. The way it was shot conveys how clever film makers are getting with the found footage style of movie making. Unlike many of its predecessors, TDI does not suffer from the spastically, often distractingly chaotic juttering motions found in previous films like Cloverfield or the Blair Witch Project. Director William Brent Bell took more than a few pages from the stationary/pre-placed camera angles utilzed in the Paranormal Activity movies, which (let’s be honest) makes the increasingly common sight of first person horror look a lot more refined and less home-made than many of its predecessors.
This is added with his own style of adding eye level and above-head camera views during the exorcism scenes, which –to an extent- delved a bit more into the scientific explainations behind exorcisms in gauging heart rate, body temperature, eye dialation, the possessed’s mental state, and so on than we’ve seen in most films of its breed. The first half hour does a good job at building setting, circumstance, and gives fair bit of background on Isabella and her mother. The rising action is well exectuted, and the goings on during the actual possession and exorcism scenes are genuinely creepy, and kept within the believeably creeping confines of contorting bodies and randomly moving objects. The actors play their roles well, and a particularly good performance by Suzan Crowley as the thoroughly unhinged Maria Rossi should be doubly noted.
Fernanda Andrade’s beauty and genuine character personality provides viewers with an elegant bit of eye candy to enjoy as events unfold. Quarterman’s vibrant honor bound attitude towards the supernatural as Ben keeps you attentive the risks, and Evan Helmuth’s convincing job as the gentle faith-driven priest David keeps the audience grounded and aware of human frailty, and does just as good a job in showing how easily that frailty can be contorted into something profoundly disturbing.
The single greatest problem this writer feels the film suffers from (without giving any spoilers) is its abrupt and non-conclusive ending. TDI takes its time opening itself up to the audience for a full eighty-four minutes before simply ending with next to no resolution or any real sense that the movie ended. During what many expected to be the start of the closing action of the film, it suddenly goes black, with the audience only be aware that the movie is over when the ending notes and credits all but shove us out of our seats and into the theatre lobby.
Its almost as if Paramount execs randomly stormed into the studio and yanked the main power cord out of the wall, turned off all the cameras, and forcefully escorted the cast off the set before walking away with the computer holding all the film footage to meet the deadline. At one point during the film Maria asks her daughter a key question of “can you connect the cuts?” Many interpreted the line to mean if she [Isabella] could understand the symbolic meaning and significance of the self-inflicted wounds strewn all over Maria’s arms. This writer interprets the question as being one of a mocking premeditated nature aimed at asking if we would be able to make sense of the film’s conclusion based on the scattered bits of info gathered from each scene, and its relation to the wholly unfullfilling ending after walking out (heads hung low) of the theatre.
While the film has a solid first act, and an equally -if not more so- compelling second act, it falls flat and seems to simply give up during the third and final act. A very astute and film savy friend of this writer -who was in attendance for the showing- stated that this appears to be an unfortunate trend with recent horror films. The lack of resolution found in peers such as the 2010’s Insidious -a brilliant horror film for the most part- which held the same enticing two acts prior to falling apart during the finale, which seemed as if the script had been taken over by an overbearing silent-partner during the last moments of the plot. This mal-formed method of story telling appears to have (unfortunately) carried over to The Devil Inside, with the film simply ending with little or no climax or solid resolution of plot at the end of all things. While perhaps only a single problem in terms of the overal film, it is a looming one that will (hopefully) be resolved should Paramount greenlight a sequel (or three).
The Devil Inside is a good film that suffers from (if nothing else) a nonexistent ending. This may simply be a product of wanting to entice fans for a sequel, but all the same it would have been nice if we were given some semblance of conclusion with the final moments of the movie. For anyone looking for a decent found footage horror film, The Devil Inside comes recommended for a few well tailored chills…provided the viewers aren’t too offended or left angry by lackluster endings, or thrown off by the feeling of being abandoned in the third act.