First off, I have to give a lot of credit to the marketing team for this flick. One of the things I’ve bitched about in recent years is how often the trailer for the movie contains all of the good stuff. It’s basically the movie’s best scenes, spoilers included, edited together. I thought this was more of the same. I thought I had The Devil Inside figured out before I went in. I did not. Neither do you. The story suggested in the trailer is present in the film, but the film goes farther and in a different direction. That is what a properly made trailer does. It gives a basic idea of what the movie is about, but it doesn’t tell the whole damn story and give away the twists. As for the movie itself, I’m gonna break it down into three sections.
The first section is comprised of the first hour of the movie. Isabella’s mom killed three people during an exorcism years ago and was taken to a mental health facility near the Vatican. Now Isabella is going to Rome, with a documentary filmmaker in tow, to find out if she’s really possessed. She teams up with two priests she meets at the School of Exorcism… School of Exorcism? Are you serious? Now I’m even more pissed that I got this useless film studies degree. I could have gone there. Imagine how cool THAT alumni sticker would look on my back windshield! Anyway, the four try to help mommy and all hell breaks loose. It was, while not bad per se, merely rehashing the conventions of every other “mockumentary” and “exorcism” film. There was nothing here we haven’t seen a hundred times, and seen done both better and worse elsewhere. The actual exorcisms are pretty well done. That being said, how many more times do we have to see a contortionist chick with bone cracking sound effects put in as the possessed girl. I guess it works for the whole making people queasy factor, but we’ve seen it. Bring something new to the table. Then again, there really hasn’t been much new brought to the possession table since The Exorcist, now has there?
When there’s not a lot of “power of Christ compels you” going on, there is a lot of talking going on. A LOT of talking. There is some cool scenery of the Vatican. The sets in this flick look pretty damn good actually. All in all, nothing really stood out as good or bad. Wait, you know what? That’s not true at all. As far as good, the two women who played the possession victims were good. Bonnie Morgan as Rosa was…holy shit! When I saw Piranha 3D, I said that the girl who got drug through the inner tube must have been a contortionist. Turns out I was right! It was the same gal they got to do the contortions in this one. I called it. Sorry, I got sidetracked again. Suzan Crowley was excellent as Isaballa’s mom too. Very creepy. I’m sure that performance was aided quite a bit by effects, but she was creepy as hell. She went from normal to crazy to demonic on a dime. In fact, all of the acting was pretty solid in this flick.
As far as what stood out negatively, well, let’s just say that I absolutely hated the cinematography in this flick. In my efforts to avoid spoilers, I haven’t read any of the press about this movie, so I somehow missed that it is a FFF (found footage flick.) I knew there was a whole lotta shakin’ going on in the trailer, and when I found out it was an FFF, I thought “Ok, it makes sense now.” As much as I rant about 3rd person shaky cam, as I’ve said many times, I’m ok with 1st person. 1st person makes sense. I was prepared to give Devil Inside a pass on that. It’s supposed to be footage that was being made for a documentary, however. You know, by a FILMMAKER. If that’s the case, this guy is the worst cameraman of all time. I would never watch a documentary that was this badly shot. Most of this is footage we are to believe was being shot for the purpose of one day releasing. I would have fired this jittering, bobbing, weaving, idiot the first day. The camera is even wobbling during sit down talking head interviews. I’m not joking. Look guys, shaky cam does make sense when filming first person, but when the character filming is supposed to be a professional filmmaker, I don’t expect the footage to be even shakier than usual. Quite the opposite.
The second section of the movie lasts for the next 27 minutes or so. I was sitting there after the first hour wondering if they were going to show me anything that was unique in the least. Then, a scene involving David, one of the priests, occurred and the film made an abrupt change. Now I was interested. Now I was into it. Sure, what was going on had been foreshadowed with all of the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face, but the way they were playing it out was compelling. The story was picking up, and I genuinely didn’t know where they were going with it. The shaky cam made more sense as everyone got panicked. I’m not going to say much, because I don’t want to give away the big twist. Suffice it to say that this part of the flick was good stuff. Damn good. If the first hour had been like this, I would have LOVED this flick. The action is rocking along, something dramatic happens, I’m thinking “oh man, that was cool, I wonder where they’re going with this,”…
…and then part 3, the ending happened. This movie is 87 minutes long. I said the first hour was ok, just kinda boring, and the second part, the next 27 minutes, was awesome. I’ll pause while you do the math. You’re probably thinking “But Nathan, that leaves no time for an ending.” PRECISELY! There wasn’t one. It just stopped. Right in the middle of said “something dramatic and interesting happening,” it cut to a black screen. We were given the lame “nothing was ever settled and no one was ever heard from again” Blair Witch rip off ending. I detest when people stop something mid scene. Blair Witch’s ending was left unresolved, but it didn’t just end. It built to something, gave it to us, THEN abruptly ended. This one just arbitrarily stopped out of nowhere. It took me a second to realize that it was the end, and another to confirm to myself that, yes, they just had the balls, and apparent disregard for me, the viewer, to end it like that. Then, to add insult to injury, there was a message saying that if I wanted more details, I should go to a URL shown on the screen. You know what? UP YOURS! I paid for a movie ticket, and I want an ending. I shouldn’t have to go to your god forsaken website for the rest of the story. I’m not doing it. Screw that, screw you, screw your ending, and god help us, if that was your way of setting up a sequel, screw The Devil Inside Strikes Back too!
Ok, calm down Nathan. I got a little carried away for a minute there. That ending pissed me off though, especially after giving me a killer half hour there that finally got me into the movie. Ok, lets recap, shall we? The first hour was decent. Sure, it was unoriginal and way too talky, but it wasn’t bad. The acting and exorcisms were good, even though the more unstable than usual cinematography threatened to ruin it. Then, the last third of the flick rocked. It was plain old good storytelling. I was not expecting it, and I dug it. Then, the ending rewarded me for being on the edge of my seat by kicking me squarely in the nuts and laughing in my face. The Devil Inside built slowly, then ramped it up and really got me going, and then abruptly stopped without a decent payoff. It’s basically the cinematic equivalent of blue balls. One severed thumb up. If you’re the type that can enjoy a good story knowing that you’ll never hear the end, then Nathan says check it out. Otherwise, it’s good enough to see when it comes to redbox, but not worth theater prices.