Tuesday, October 30, 2012

30 Days of Fright - 29: The Devil Inside

Ever since the heyday of creepy films with priests in them in the early seventies, Hollywood and everyone else in the film business, have been trying to recapture the menace and genuine fear that a good dose of religion can bring to a story. This is no easy task as the world has changed a lot since then and for many organised religion is not the big part of their lives it once was. Films are different too, not as gritty or harsh and, mostly, not as good.

The Devil Inside (2012) starts off in 1989 with a mix of TV reports and videotaped police crime scene footage showing the details of the murder of three people at the hands of Maria Rossi as an exorcism was being performed on her. Through more TV reports we are shown that Maria was found to be mad and ended up committed to an asylum.

Now, after learning about her mother and the murders from her father before his death,  Maria's daughter Isabella is making a documentary about her dear old mum and the practice of exorcisms. Maria has been transferred from the US to a psychiatric hospital in Rome, near the Vatican. Travelling to Rome, Isabella hopes to find out more about exorcism from the high-ups in the Church as well as reuniting with her mammy.

In Rome, Isabella visits a school for exorcists where clergy and civilians can go to learn the theory of casting out demons. Through the school she meets a couple of young priests who are well into the whole thing as well as some laypeople who are a little more sceptical.The priests bring Isabella along to see an exorcism first hand in an effort to convince her that exorcisms are real and necessary. From there she goes to the hospital where she spends some quality time with her raving lunatic of a mother. Maria is not a shining example of the effectiveness of the Italian mental health system as she sits in her room all day and divides her time between drawing unusual pictures and cutting inverted crosses into her flesh. Her only other hobbies are shouting anti-religious obscenities at hospital staff and violent outbursts.

Isabella's meeting with Maria goes as well as you'd expect, with Maria, in her mental way, giving out to Isabella for having an abortion when she's not busy talking in unusual accents or screaming her head off. Isabella is initially upset by the visit but later realises that there was no way her mum could have known about the abortion as she'd had it some years previously and told no-one. She goes to see the two priests from the exorcist school and shows them the video of her visiting her ma. They quickly decide to pay a call on Maria in the hospital as they believe that she is still possessed by whatever entity the exorcism in '89 was trying to drive out. The lads are well intentioned but out of their depth and while trying to cast out whatever is troubling Maria they unleash something terrifying...

Maria's un-necessarily tight trousers give her terrible backdraft problems after a rotten kabab

Even a person as well known for their hatred of found footage/first person shooter style films like me can see why they lend themselves to stories about exorcism. If I were ever in a situation where an exorcism was likely to be taking place near me, I would grab a video camera before things got rolling just in case Satan himself should pop out of the victims mouth and run around the place. That's the kind of thing that would get you a few hits on You Tube!

Understanding the appeal of such films however does in no way what so ever justify this shitty, lazy approach to movie making and it makes it hard to appreciate the story for what it is when so much hangs on the visual style. Hard, but not impossible, for after watching The Devil Inside, I feel that I can appreciate it for exactly what it is: a large piece of shit left inside your favourite pair of boots that you didn't notice until it was too late.

The Devil Inside might have been a half-decent short film. If it was only ten minutes long and told the story it did it could have been an enjoyable little thing and people would love it. As a full-length feature film it's about eighty minutes too long. Once the opening scenes have been and gone, where you see the original murders and you hear the details of the exorcism being performed on Maria Rossi, then there is no need to see the rest of the film as you know what's going to happen, the only twist is how (and why) to move the action to Italy (though no good reason is ever given for the Roman holiday).

Isabella's quest to understand her mother is an admirable one but you know, you just fucking know, that the woman is possessed by demons and that any hint of mental illness is a red herring. In one scene there's a discussion of the mechanics of exorcisms and the concept of demons leaping from one person to another is mentioned so you know, you just fucking know, that the demon will jump from Maria to pretty much everyone else. Armed with these details you actually know more then the makers of the film did, because anyone with any imagination could figure out how the film was going to end, anyone that is, except the people who actually made The Devil Inside.

It's not unfair to say that The Devil Inside has one of, if not the, worst ending to a film I have ever seen. I won't spoil the ending by giving away what happened because I haven't a clue what happened, the film just ends and you are prompted to visit a website to discover more details. I'm not kidding, you're honestly told to go to a fucking website! I actually did and was surprised to find a website as shit as the film it's related to, which is saying something!

Two Thumbs Firmly Down for The Devil Inside.

Possession is nine Links of the law:
Official Site: http://www.devilinsidemovie.com/
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1560985/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Devil_Inside_%28film%29

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