Review: The Devil Inside (15) / Director: William Brent Bell / Screenplay: William Brent Bell, Matthew Peterman / Starring: Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman, Even Helmuth / Release Date: Out Now
Director William Brent Bell has an obvious affection for The Exorcist (1973) unfortunately his attempts to update the premise with found footage and the spin of multiple demonic possessions doesn’t work. A contortionist, the spider walk, the use of the C word all nod to his fondness, but it certainly doesn’t live up to the quality.
The Devil Inside opens in 1989 with police footage and news coverage of a brutal trio of murders committed by Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley) after a prayer meeting goes horribly wrong in a gory and promising prologue. We are introduced to her daughter, Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade), in 2009 as she attempts to discover the true reason behind her mother’s mental state, in the worry that it could be inherited. Her father has passed and her mother is being held in a psychiatric hospital in Rome, Italy so she heads there with cameraman Michael Schaefer, to investigate and chronicle her quest for the truth. Location shooting in Rome looks grand, but too much time spent idly following Isabella round the gorgeous city will have you shifting in your seat with boredom.
On arriving in Rome Isabella meets two priests who perform exorcisms not approved by the Vatican (think the Spectral Sightings duo in Insidious but with all the fun taken out). Father Ben Rawlings (Simon Quarterman) and Father David Keane’s (Evan Helmuth) side operation moves the story along as they agree to help Isabella in getting to the bottom of her mother’s condition but the characters were not fleshed out enough and their acting didn’t feel natural or reactive enough for the found footage perspective.
Crowley does a good evil Susan Sarandon impression and Ray Winstone style cockney accent when an exorcism is attempted on her and her bulging eyes are fascinating to watch but the scene unfortunately lacks any tension. Another exorcism scene features body contortionist, Bonnie Morgan, and it is a spectacle worth seeing. Unfortunately the film has serious pacing issues in the lead up to the exorcisms, it wastes a lot of time mumbling about the catholic tradition of exorcism, and uses lazy scares like dogs barking loudly to try and make you jump in the meantime. The religious aspect is obviously important in this film, and as Isabella is making her documentary, she walks in on an exorcism class that gives you all the information you need for the set-up of this film. The filmmakers attempt to utilise the documentary style of the film with conversations in cafes and apartments could have been cut for faster pacing.
This is low budget horror at its worst, instead of playing with ideas or building on a good idea in a creative way, the filmmakers have chosen to rehash the limited exorcism tropes that have been seen too many times now.
After The Last Exorcism played out so nicely and effectively with some inventive ideas The Devil Inside takes the obvious, less challenging route and makes for disappointing viewing. The premise was promising as was the opening scene but they missed every opportunity to do anything clever with it.
Expected rating: 5 out of 10