Review: THE DEVIL INSIDE (2012)
Starring Fernanda Andrade, Suzan Crowley, Simon Quarterman, Evan Helmuth
Directed by William Brent Bell
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Let’s just be frank about something right off the bat- there are a lot of found footage movies going on these days and most of the time, they don’t work. During the premiere screening of the modern granddaddy of the found footage franchises- PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3- Paramount gave us a taste for their latest pseudo-doc offering, THE DEVIL INSIDE. Honestly, I wish I hadn’t seen that extended preview because I felt like I knew too much going into the film tonight.
However, I soon found out my thinking was wrong because there were some surprises to be had in the flick. Sure, THE DEVIL INSIDE didn’t do a whole lot to shake up either the exorcism-themed or found footage subgenres of horror cinema but what it did manage to do was give us a few twists and turns outside the box and create an ending that should no doubt infuriate most audiences (more on why this is a good thing later) and keep people debating about it for some time- and getting people to talk about horror, the good or the bad, is always a good thing.
THE DEVIL INSIDE opens with a chill inducing 911-call followed by a police video that shows the results of an exorcism gone wrong. Three clergy members have been murdered and a troubled woman named Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley) looks to be the one who committed the crime during what we find out later was an exorcism gone awry (three death people is going extremely awry, but awry nonetheless). Maria is apprehended, found not guilty of her crime and is eventually shipped off to a mental institution in Rome under mysterious circumstances.
THE DEVIL INSIDE then flash-forwards some twenty years later where we meet Maria’s daughter Isabella (Fernanda Andrade) who decides to make a documentary with her filmmaker friend Michael as they attempt to uncover really what happened that fateful night in 1989 and to finally see whether or not Maria is truly possessed by a demon or if it is all just a form of mental sickness. While in Rome, Isabella seeks the help of two young priests named Ben (Simon Quarterman) and David (Evan Helmuth) who offer to help Isabella and Michael find the answers they need as well as open their eyes to the underground world of exorcisms and the Church’s unfair new practices surrounding the ritual.
Like many of its found footage peers, THE DEVIL INSIDE uses a variety of cinema verité styles to convey the feeling that you are watching real footage with some surveillance cameras and other random cameras are thrown in just to mix things up a bit. And while most of the footage works, my only issue was that it seems like the footage that Michael is shooting feels like someone trying to sell the amateur filmmaker angle of THE DEVIL INSIDE just a little too hard- and at some points was incredibly distracting to the point where I almost lost the ability to follow the characters.
What saves THE DEVIL INSIDE from mediocrity are the performances throughout the film which were all incredibly realistic and grounded across the board. Though we’ve seen so many possession clichés over the last 30 years or so (due to the success of THE EXORCIST), Crowley manages to really nail her performance of Maria by giving audiences a haunting, often startling and truly memorable performance. Andrade is perfectly acceptable as Isabella and puts forth her best effort to carry THE DEVIL INSIDE, but to be honest- her character is more of a catalyst for the film and ends up being far less interesting than both Father Ben and Father David, who pretty much steal the movie out from under everyone else. To say more about just how they steal the show in THE DEVIL INSIDE would break my no spoiler rule so I have to leave it at that for now.
What will end up being a major sticking point for a lot of people will be the controversial ending (and just based on the initial reactions I’ve seen coming out of tonight’s premiere, people are livid) of THE DEVIL INSIDE. Again, I won’t go into just what we see (no spoilers!) but what I will say is that things are definitely left unresolved with the fate of many of the film’s characters left up in the air with no answers to be found. And while I definitely enjoyed THE DEVIL INSIDE overall, the ending does feel a bit odd- kind of like they weren’t sure just how to end the story or they hadn’t even filmed one at all.
But what I personally love about the ending of THE DEVIL INSIDE is that no doubt, everyone will be talking and debating about it for some time and that’s pretty genius if you ask me. No filmmaker goes into a movie just to make something people are kind of “meh” over- you go into making a movie to say something, to get people thinking- positively or negatively- and I believe that’s exactly what director Bell has done here.
The bottom line is that the hardened horror skeptics out there may not be up for THE DEVIL INSIDE but as a fan, I had a ton of fun seeing the flick on the big screen. There are some great jolts throughout the movie with a few twists thrown in for fun as well as strong performances from the entire cast, THE DEVIL INSIDE is just devilish fun to be had in a packed theater if you go into it with your expectations in check. It’s not the most inventive found footage movie ever made, but THE DEVIL INSIDE is definitely one of the better ones to come out as of late and will certainly have everyone talking once the credits begin rolling.
3.5 out of 5