Director – William Brent Bell
Cast – Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman, Evan Helmuth, Ionut Grama, Susan Crowley, Bonnie Morgan, Brian Johnson
Release Year – 2012
Reviewed by John of the Dead
When I first saw the trailer for The Devil Inside (while viewing Paranormal Activity 3) I was immediately intrigued and pretty damn stoked for what seemed to be an awesome exorcism film. There has been a resurgence of exorcist films these past few years (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, An American Haunting, etc.), but none of them involved the catholic church to the extent that The Devil Inside did. Sadly this experience, while coming with an awesome storyline, fell flat immediately after its enjoyable opening sequ3nce, making for another horror film that failed miserably at achieving ht potential provided by a cool story.
For most of her life Isabella Rossi’s mother has been institutionalized in mental facilities around America, forcing her to grow up never truly knowing her mother. When she learns that her mother was incarcerated for killing three people during an exorcism on herself Isabella’s interest is sparked, and a recent decision to move her mother to Rome, Italy – home of the Roman Catholic Church – leads Isabella and her camera-toting friend Michael to embark to Italy in hopes of documenting Isabella’s first time seeing her mother since that fateful night 20 years prior.
Writing duo William Brent Bell and Matthew Peterman, the men behind the forgettable Stay Alive, penned this awesome overall story that provides many unique elements not often used in the exorcism sub-genre. For one we are given a protagonist who travels to Rome, a city with a rich history involving exorcisms that ups the tension, as well as a documentary-esque film making style that gives us front row seats to the horror. Watching Isabella painfully visit her mother in the detrepid state she’s been in for two decades was great as far as character development, which ultimately takes a big toll on the young woman and those she partnered with to discover whether or not her mom is truly possessed. She enlists the help of two young priests – in addition to her cameraman Michael – which I found to be a fun and fairly creative idea for this sub-genre. I’ve seen protagonists enlist the help of a priest before, but never one who enlists two rogue priests who cure people that the Church denied exorcisms for. Despite these positives the film ultimately makes little use of them and instead takes us on an uneventful ride that never delivers anything the story promises.
I saw it happen with Apollo 18 and numerous other “hyped” horror films of last year, and once again we are given a flick whose trailer entails pretty much every scare in the film. Don’t get me wrong, the lack of scares is the least of this film’s worries – what really left me unsatisfied was the fact that there were so many potential outlets for the film to take in delivering a good story but instead stayed stagnant and only hinted at what could have been. If I go into great detail I will provide numerous spoilers that could possibly ruin your experience even more, but I will say that we are given little-to-no closure regarding Isabella’s mom, the Catholic Church’s hypocrisy, and what ultimately happens to our protagonists. If this were a TV show then I would not balk, but as a movie this screenplay fails on numerous levels and I failed to mention all of the faults because it really is not worth my time.
William Brent Bell also serves as the film’s director, and he somewhat made his co-written screenplay a bit more bearable however not enough to save the mess he created for himself. He did well with the horror, when it was present, giving us some good exorcism scenes that brought nothing new to the table but were well-executed nonetheless. The character performances were so-so, with Suzan Crowley as Isabella’s mother delivering the best performance from all involved, but none of the actors were sub-par. Bell did a great job employing good atmosphere and sets, which helped with his execution of the horror and keeping the viewer on edge for a fair amount of the film, but his storyline held him back in the end.
Overall, The Devil Inside is another letdown that received a wide-release over other more worthy films that get things right. The overall story is a cool one but it never develops into anything worthwhile and along with just borderline-positive direction this results in a film you should skip – especially at current movie theater prices.