At the special premiere screening for The Devil Inside, sponsor radio stationPower 106 played obnoxious rap as the press and audience filed into the theater (a remix of INXS' Devil Inside might have been fun — but the only gimmick tie-in to the film was a "possessed" member of the audience crawling along the banisters), and the filmmakers and actors were on hand for interviews and meet & greets. Admittedly, it's difficult to dislike a less than stellar film once you've put nice faces to the names on the screen. But truly, I didn't hate The Devil Inside. I liked it well enough, up until the sucker-punch ending. Then, I felt a bit had.
The Devil Inside is a serviceable Satanic scarefest, smartly starring unknowns so as to reduce scene-stealing (hello, Sir Anthony Hopkins from last January's obligatory demonic possession ding-dong ditch, The Rite) and using the trite and true found footage trick (wrapped in a mock-doc riddle). The movie starts off briskly enough, focusing on a triple homicide committed by once mild-mannered wife and mother Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley), and then flashes forward to the story her now-grown filmmaker daughter Isabella (Fernanda Andrade) wants to tell. Mom has been confined to a mental institution in Vatican City for years, and so that's the first stop on the long, exploratory journey into hell. Isabella teams up with a pair of probing priests (played by Simon Quarterman and Evan Helmuth), cameraman Michael (Ionut Grama) presses the REC button, and the grim games begin!
Bodies contort and bones bend; check. Demons speak in tongues and know priests' deepest darkest secrets; check. Devil leaps from host-to-host; check. Innocent victim; check. Nothing's new here, and what's more (or less) there isn't a lot back story given on those we are supposed to be caring about (Isabella says once she hopes she doesn't inherit her mother's mental discord, but that possible line of suspense is thrown away; we know one of the priests had a shaky past, but not enough is given to go on).
The cinematography is not groundbreaking, which isn't easy anyway given the confines of the subject matter (a few have succeeded in thinking outside the quaking box — Alone With Her, REC, Chronicle) but it's thankfully not nausea-inducing. The acting is good, especially that of Crowley and Quarterman. Special effects makeup is subtle and spooky. While the Devil is never given distinct character of any kind, I think the flick has its freaky beats here and there.
The Devil Inside isn't as bad as The Rite or Legion, but it's not as good as House of the Devil or The Last Exorcism. It does, however, have the best bad ending of the lot.
= = =
Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson