The Devil Inside sneaks into theaters this weekend — promotion for it didn’t even seem to start until a week ago — and with good reason. Even though this is the first weekend of 2012 and this is also the first movie of 2012 that I’ve seen, it is very likely that it will still end up on my “Worst of 2012” list. In fact, I suspect Paramount Insurge released the film this weekend in the hope critics will not remember how truly wretched it is by the time they make their lists in December 2012.
The Devil Inside is one of those pseudo-documentary horror films, a style that was already worn out half a dozen years ago, and it’s about exorcisms, a subject that is far past its expiration date. As a result, the entire film is like something that has been left in the fridge for too long. Perhaps the only effective aspect of the movie is that it does an effective job of presenting itself as a documentary for the first twenty minutes or so (with the exception of some poorly Photoshopped “vintage” photographs). After that, the movie freely and regularly drops the documentary facade when it wants to be a narrative film and as the film goes on even the documentary portions are filmed in Cloverfield “shaky cam” style, which means the in-movie documentarian Michael (Ionut Grama), who has several thousands of dollars of film equipment, must have not had any money left over for a tripod or was out sick the day tripods were covered in film school.
I won’t go too deep into the film’s story since at only 87 minutes there is barely any story to write about, but much of the film focuses on Father Ben and Father David (Simon Quartermain and Evan Helmuth), two renegade Catholic priests who perform exorcisms without Papal permission, who are helping Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade) discover if her mother is possessed. David and Ben are like exorcism Ghostbusters, and they have enough little gadgets to put Egon to shame. Fortunately, unlike most horror films, The Devil Inside doesn’t assume that the only duty priests perform is removing demons from people and we do see them doing other priestly tasks. For example, we do get a glimpse of David performing a Baptism. Unfortunately, though the film is set in Italy Father David is performing the Sacrament in English. Opps. Well, at least they tried.
I point that scene out in particular because like most awful horror films The Devil Inside is at best disturbing when it tires to be scary and laughable when it tries to be shocking or provocative. In fact, I can’t imagine the filmmakers — director and co-writer William Brent Bell and co-writer Matthew Peterman — didn’t think that a large portion of the movie would end up being funny rather than frightening. In particular, in the two exorcisms shown, the possessed individuals spout out graphic insults toward the priests that are reminiscent of R. Lee Ermey‘s in Full Metal Jacket, which (of course) are humorous instead of shocking. Humor certainly can have a place in horror movies, but not when it makes the horror ineffective to the point of ridicule.
Despite a deep, dark secret in Father Ben’s past that is alluded to, we never find out the details by the time we get to the movie’s anti-climatic ending. That ending, by the way, resulted in much booing from the dissatisfied audience at the free screening I attended — something that’s extremely rare if you’re not familiar with screenings. The “ending” provides no resolution, no closure, no satisfaction, and doesn’t even explain how the heck this documentary ended up being put together for our viewing “pleasure.” It just… ends. That’s a lot of problems, and even though a website is given on the final title card “to learn more” I’ve wasted too much time on this movie already to bother going there (I didn’t even write it down).
There are exactly two things going for The Devil Inside: it was produced on a small budget (reportedly $1 million) and it is the only major release movie coming out this weekend, so it’s only competing with old films at the multiplex. But despite how terrible the movie is, the fact that there are so many excellent December movies still in theaters is ultimately the main reason you shouldn’t bother with The Devil Inside. There will be plenty of other horror films worth checking out in 2012 instead.
(Final Note: At the screening I attended there was a DJ in the theater spinning tunes before the movie started, then four people dressed as priests came in and explained that the film was evil. Why Paramount went though the expense of doing this is anyone’s guess, but I can definitely say after viewing the film that it still wasn’t the goofiest thing about my trip to the movies that night).
Rating: Move along, nothing to see here. (0.5/10 )