- 'THE DEVIL INSIDE': Fernanda Andrade and Suzan Crowley star.
Calling it now: Next December, after you've properly forgotten about "The Devil Inside," you're going to see it pop up on a bunch of Worst of 2012 lists. It's a true clunker, marked by one of the worst endings ever committed to celluloid. After a promising first 45 minutes, full of nasty exorcism scenes and squirm-worthy effects, director/co-writer William Brent Bell closes the faux documentary as abruptly and unceremoniously as a dealer flushing a bag of pills during a raid. Plot lines are left flapping; questions are answered with ellipses. After the final scene, a line of type appears on the screen to inform the audience that the case remains unresolved, then another line of type advises viewers, who by that point are feeling to make sure their wallets haven't been stolen along with their time, to visit a website for further details. Then the credits roll, and people blurt "that's it?" in multi-part harmony.
It's worth asking whether "The Devil Inside" should even qualify as a movie. (If it were a bridge, it would stop 100 yards shy of the far shore. If it were this sentence, it wou) It's listed at a brisk 87 minutes, but even that feels inflated. More precisely, maybe, it's an extended trailer for a series of confused web forums where morons wonder aloud whether the movie was "real" and try to explain to one another ways in which the plot actually might have made some sense. (Note: It doesn't.)
Whatever you do, please don't feed this sham of a movie any ticket sales. If you want to sneak in after seeing the fourth "Mission: Impossible" or something, this will catch you up on the early-going. Back in 1989, a woman named Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley, who unlike Bell took her part seriously) killed three clergymen during an exorcism they were performing on her. She was shipped to a mental hospital near the Vatican, where she remains locked up and clearly disturbed/satanic 20 years later, when her grown daughter (Fernanda Andrade) decides she wants answers and visits with a documentary filmmaker (Ionut Grama) in tow. There they barge into a session of, uh, exorcism school to get the skinny on what qualifies a person as possessed, and meet a pair of budding exorcists — Simon Quarterman and Evan Helmuth — who bring them on an exorcism ridealong and later give Maria the ol' college try.
Not the worst setup ever, right? Trouble is, "The Devil Inside" not only quits on its plot, it flakes on its format. At least when "The Blair Witch Project" came out in 1999, first-person handheld filming hadn't been run into the ground. The approach was fresh, and for whatever else that movie lacked, it stayed true to its premise, using only footage that the three doomed principals could've shot themselves. "The Devil Inside" cannot decide where it's going, cannot follow through with a story arc, and cannot even hold itself to the rules it lays out, cutting in at least one scene to camera angles that no character in the movie could be shooting. Not content merely to be stupid and unsatisfying, then, "The Devil Inside" also insults anyone who extends it even the most basic courtesy of playing along with its shtick. Hand it five bucks to get a sandwich and "The Devil Inside" buys cigarettes right in front of you. Then offers one to your kid.
Part of the problem of making a movie about exorcisms is the long shadow that "The Exorcist" casts; the 1973 flick is among horror directors' favorites, and is possibly the most iconic horror film ever. But part of its strength is the simple fact that demonic possession is literally scary as hell. Freighted with Catholic superstition, set in claustrophobic bedrooms — a botch so execrable as "The Devil Inside" is inexcusable. Unless compelled by, say, the power of Christ, do the righteous thing: avoid, avoid.