Monday, January 30, 2012

The Devil Inside Review

The horror genre has embraced the "faux documentary" form of film-making, and I can  see why. If done well, setting a film up as a documentary  adds an air of credibility that may help today's cynical audiences extend a bit more disbelief. Cloverfield, The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity are examples of films that, good or bad, have effectively used the documentary format.

When done poorly, this approach to a film is just a really lazy way to avoid character development, answering questions that should be answered, and building a coherent plot. Unfortunately, The Devil Inside is the epitome of a poor example of the documentary approach, and just all around really lazy story-telling.

Now, I typically don't go see ANY movie that looks like it might involve exorcism in the theater, simply because they scare the hell out of me and I prefer being at home with the lights on. I am not ashamed to say that I am 31 years old and a well-told demonic possession tale will force me to sleep with the lights on for at least a week. 

So the mere fact that I found this movie so lame says something, and it is especially shocking since I relented and saw it in the theater at a friend's request.

The most unfortunate part of the film's failure is that the premise is really, really good.

Isabella Rossi has lived her whole life knowing that, when she was very young, her mother inexplicably murdered three clergy members in their home. Declared not guilty because of mental disease, her mother is sent to an institution to deal with her mental illness.When Isabella is older, her father divulges that the murders happened while her mother was undergoing an exorcism, and that since her sentencing, she has been moved... to Italy. (OK, I buy that it could happen, but could someone please explain why Italy wants our mentally ill mass murders? Because the move never does).

Isabella then hires a filmmaker to make a pilgramige to Rome and find out what really happened to her mother. She is sick of her whole life (you know, since her father told her a little while ago) being about possession, and she wants answers.

First stop: A course being taught by the Vatican  on exorcism. In the 1-minute span of the class, I come up with three major issues I have:
  1. If the Vatican refuses to allow exorcisms to be filmed (a major tenant of the movie) then why would they let the class on performing them be filmed?
  2. If the class is for learning how to perform exorcisms, as described in the film, then why are the two priests Isabella teams up with there even in it, as both are already ordained exorcists?
  3. And 3... SPOILER ALERT... Was there no better way for the writers here to introduce the kind of possession Isabella's mother suffers from than having it be the only part of the class she attends. Seriously, she is in a class for 30 seconds, the teacher references this term, and I thought "gee, I bet that is what her mother has" and I was right.
This is the root of my entire issue with the film-- the writer took an awesome concept and just couldn't be bothered to spend time developing it. Isabella has no character development. I sat through an hour and a half of a film where she was on-screen almost the whole time, and I cannot tell you a single thing about her, other than the fact that her mother is possessed.

I was not surprised once during this film. More times than I could count, a scene was set up and I thought "this is what is going to happen" and lo and behold, I was right. Even the vile verbal assaults of the multiple demons we meet were trite, and cliche, and more fodder for a high school locker room than the den of the devil.

All in all, I say skip it, unless you want to be really angry that someone had such a great idea for a movie, but didn't spend just a little bit more time developing it to be anything beyond mediocre and predictable.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't heard of the movie, but these documentary types are the ones I prefer to avoid. I don't even like it when my favorite tv shows attempt them. Somehow, I don't feel like I'm actually living the moment like the producers had hoped.

    Thanks for the warning. I'll definitely skip it. Doesn't sound worth the time or money to sit through.