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The Devil Inside

January 7, 2012
The Devil Inside

The nice thing about the fake documentary and found-footage formats is that they can be cheap. You don’t need to spend a lot on sets, or on post-production; using an actor who anyone might recognize is actually a drawback. But it seems that the producers of The Devil Inside are trying to break new ground in this department by doing away with the third act of the movie entirely.

In October of 1989, Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley) killed three people in South Hartford, Connecticut. She was found not guilty by reason of mental defect, and was committed to an asylum. As it turns out, they were two priests and a nun, there to perform an exorcism, and two years later the Vatican arranged for her transfer to a mental hospital in Rome.

In December 2009 Maria’s daughter, Isabella (Fernanda Andrade), travels to Rome to get some answers. She had only been eight when her mother’s exorcism took place; she didn’t know it even was an exorcism until her father told her shortly before he died in May of 2009, when she was 25.

Wait a minute, here. If she was 25 in May of 2009 she was born between May of 1983 and May of 1984, but if she was eight in October of 1989 she must have been born between October of 1980 and October of 1981. I mean, yes I know that none of this is real anyway, but it’s incredible sloppiness like this that prevents even the willing suspension of disbelief.

Anyway, Isabella goes to Rome and brings along Michael (Ionut Grama), a documentary filmmaker. Their relationship is never clear; did she seek him out? did he seek her? did they know each other before? No explanation is offered, and none that I can come up with sits well with what we see on screen.

They slip into a class in the Vatican’s exorcism school in the middle of an explanation of multiple demonic possession and demonic transference — which sticks out as just as obvious a bit of foreshadowing as it sounds — where they meet Frs. Ben (Simon Quarterman) and David (Evan Helmuth), who perform unsanctioned exorcisms on the side. Ben is a second-generation exorcist with issues around his inspirational uncle that are mentioned but thoroughly unexamined. David comes from a medical background, and is somewhat conflicted about jeopardizing his position by going off the grid, which conflict also barely extends past a trembling mention.

We go along to see a “real exorcism” of a young Italian girl (Bonnie Morgan), and there’s all the requisite dirty talk, speaking in tongues, amateur contortionism, telekinesis, and wall-climbing. Morgan does her best Linda Blair, as does Crowley in her turn. But Crowley actually does better earlier on when she may just be crazy. When Isabella first meets her in the hospital, Maria is creepy as hell; when strapped to a table, she’s just loud and profane.

The story feels like the sort of thing a college film student might slap together, and — aside from Crowley — the acting matches. I have no idea what inspired Paramount’s Insurge Pictures to take a flyer on such an amateurish project. But the cheapest stunt in a very cheap movie is building the action to some semblance of momentum and then driving it head-on into a brick wall. People around me in the theater were outraged to have “paid full price to see half a movie”, and frankly I can’t blame them.

Worth It: no.
Bechdel Test: pass.

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