I sometimes ponder to myself if I'm capable of making it in this world; if I have a snowball's chance in hell to ever get a book published, let alone be seen as remotely successful.
Then I watch a film like The Devil Inside and realize that yeah, I have a pretty good chance to succeed in the end.
A monumental feat in cinematic history, The Devil Inside manages to conflate the exorcism subgenre of horror, the found footage genre, and blow them up in a fiery blaze. Such an achievement can only be done if one truly understands how to seriously have no idea as to how to write a story.
Lucky for us, writer and director William Brent Bell seems to have lost roughly a third of his script in a tragic accident of some sort—perhaps having realized that exorcism movies have been desecrated as any number of holy objects are in these movies. This, in turn, leaves us with a movie that plays out like a standard exorcism movie, only shot in a documentary-style, and then ends the same way picking up a wasp did for me: hurting and rather pissed off at myself for having wasted my time for ever bothering.
The Devil Inside is not endorsed by the Vatican, nor did it assist in the making of the film. We know this because the film tells us at the start in arguably the best preface I've seen since watching The Fourth Kind where Milla Jovovich came out to warn me the movie was real and super spooky.
As for the plot: it centers on Isabelle Rossi, a young woman who's looking into her mother, Maria Rossi, who's confined in a mental hospital for murdering three people twenty years prior. Isabelle believes her mother to have been possessed and, with the assistance of two Catholic priests and a cameraman, goes out to document the entire thing.
I'll admit, the premise of this film being done in a documentary-style is cool. The film doesn't overuse the found footage aspect, occasionally shifting to a security camera or something akin to that. It's nice the movie played around with its gimmick, though it did lead to an extremely glaring flaw.
Unique premise aside, there's no point in spending time praising when it's not scary. If anything, The Devil Inside is horrifyingly dull. It relies more on jump scares, your standard exorcism gimmick of vulgarity that's thrown around like it's sand in the Sahara, and drama that even the Lifetime channel would groan at. Bundle it all together and you get one healthy serving of NyQuil in celluloid form. Bottoms up!
On a slightly brighter note, the performances aren't that bad. For the most part, they're very average—something I'd consider a negative in any other case, but here: the film needs every bit of praise it can get.
Of note, Suzan Crowley does an absolutely wonderful job as Maria Rossi. She hams up her performance and never stops. The end result is the only character who has more emotion than your standard plank of wood one can find at their local Home Depot. The best part is she's not really in the movie, so most of the film you're stuck with characters as memorable as that one teenager who probably spit in your coffee.
Now, I don't blame the actors and actresses for that. Rather, I blame it on the horrendous script that fuels this 83 minute trainwreck. As stated before: film has a very heavy reliance on exorcism tropes—embracing the demon vulgarity like I've never seen in a film before. The shock value of seeing a young girl say she wants to “skull fuck” a priest isn't there when the atmosphere is as thin as the love child of a blade of grass and a piece of paper.
Jump scares are also copious, as is the gore and other body fluids. Nothing quite says scary like vomit. I'll give credit though, the movie did creep me out with a close up of an eyeball on a computer monitor. Though a bar set that low, I guess I can slide down it to visit Hell on my spare time. Thanks, movie!
Those issues, however, are rather small compared to the film's pacing, which feels like it drags its weight for the first 75 minutes, then hastily rushes the last 8 until it ends. You see: The Devil Inside seems to have opted for a unique type of storytelling—one where the concept of structure is as alien as being scary or suspenseful. This type of storytelling works as follows.
Act One is where we learn our characters motivations, backstories, and are met with jump scares and other things that your typical Z-grade horror film offers.
Act Two is where we are met with jump scares and other things that your typical Z-grade horror film offers, rank two. This offers 20% extra damage to one's faith in the horror genre.
Act Three was lost because William Brent Bell can't write.
In its haste to be seen as a really real found footage film, The Devil Inside ends with a few frames from a car crash before saying the investigation into the Rossi case is ongoing. After that, it offers a link to a website that's since been shut down. You can still view it via The Wayback Machine.
The laziness of not having an ending, then launching a website to build upon your story, is amazing. This might have worked as a web series, but as a theatrical film: it's astonishing this was released without someone pulling Bell aside and slapping him upside the head.
The Devil Inside is a catastrophic misfire on a scale that shouldn't be possible. To see a film that doesn't have an actual ending is staggering. Even if I ignore that, the movie's as scary as a bottle of water. It's far from the worst film I've ever seen, but it's one of the most insulting.
Final Score: 1/5