An atmosphere of eeriness gives way to superficial scare tactics.
The Devil Inside performed a miracle at the US box office raking in $53 million from a budget of one million. William Brent Bell’s found footage shocker, however, isn’t particularly well made and showcases a litany of dog-tired clichés.
Its one major innovation – if we can claim it so – is a sequence involving an exorcism in a moving car. To mark such a moment as outrageously silly seems redundant given the genre rests on a bedrock of such outlandish assumptions and manipulation.
The opening few scenes attempt to build an atmosphere of eeriness: A quiet tension accumulates, too, as we’re presented with mock crime scene evidence tapes and news footage. An exorcism has gone terribly wrong. People have been murdered and a suburban housewife whisked off to an asylum in Rome.
This film would have been far more effective had it maintained a course where open-mindedness and chills dominate. Unfortunately such notions are jettisoned in a second and third act marked by heightened lunacy and multiple demonic possessions.
We get three exorcism performances in total with each one getting more and more preposterous than the last. Two maverick priests take documentary filmmakers into their archaic and dark world where God and the Devil duke it out over human souls. "I’ve seen the Devil way more than I’ve seen God," Father Ben (Simon Quarterman) remarks straight to camera.
Films of this brand pray heavily on our existential and religious fears through bombastic imagery and sound design. Yet The Devil Inside fails because it gives way to superficial scare tactics too easily.
There’s very little skill involved, just the wheeling out of the same-old, same-old, involving the customary ‘woman as victim’ needing to be saved by the power of righteous men through whom God commands His will.
Like last year’s The Rite, Bell’s movie promises to go behind the scenes at the Vatican, explore the nature and practice of exorcism before deciding it wants to copy William Friedkin’s classic 1973, The Exorcist, to procure mainstream interest. This subgenre, in certain respects, hasn’t learned to move on.
The film the Vatican doesn’t want you to see!
A promising opening act gives way to major silliness.
The Devil Inside is yet another dull found footage effort with nothing, bar a mad climax, to offer audiences.