I just returned from seeing the newest theatrical horror film, THE DEVIL INSIDE, and if this is any indication of what kind of year us horror fans are in for, then I urge everyone to quickly head out to their local liquor store and STOCK UP! The film opened yesterday and while the theater I saw it in wasn’t packed to the gills, it still had a pretty large turn out.
The film deals with a young, attractive woman named Isabella Rossi whose mother committed a triple homicide back in 1989 while, supposedly “possessed.” Eager to learn the truth, Isabella travels to Italy with her trusty camera man in an effort to see her mother (being kept in a mental institution monitored by the Vatican) and hopefully find some answers. The movie is filmed in the (now tired) POV/documentary style and opens with the “shocking” omission that “The Vatican does not endorse this film.” Seriously? And just how many exorcism films has the Church endorsed? It’s still ZERO, right?
Whether The Vatican acknowledges exorcisms presented as entertainment value or not, they apparently have no problem allowing casual visitors to attend one of their special “Exorcism classes” designed for their clergy. While attending one of these lectures, Isabella meets two priests; Father Ben and Father David, who are eager to assist her. Here is where I thought the film offered an interesting premise; the two priests are irked with the Church’s hesitation in acknowledging and handling cases of possession and decide to take matters into their own hands. While it was never made clear why the Church is lagging, I’m guessing it has something to do with them spending more time these days running away from litigators as opposed to chasing the Devil. Needless to say, the young priests decide to assist Isabella with her mother’s case…to their own peril.
While Father Ben and Father David are no Sam and Dean Winchester, they’ve created their own impressive exorcism arsenal and are prepared to risk Excommunication working as rogues, in lieu of the Church’s stagnation. This could have worked well as weekly TV series (“Catholic Priests: Special Victims Unit”), especially as they reveal that “no two possessions are the same” and that there are numerous demons running amok – some more powerful than others. Unfortunately for this group of characters, Isabella’s mother has been afflicted with one of the worst. Though the demon’s name is never revealed, you can quickly see why Satan would put him on the fast track for a promotion due to his incredible multi-tasking skills! This demon has no trouble casually jumping from one host body to another – even going so far as to turn Father David into a Terror Dave!
If trying to figure out who’s possessed and who isn’t doesn’t have you scratching your head, the abrupt and anti-climactic ending surely will! Remember that large audience I mentioned earlier? I can honestly say that by the time the end credits scrolled, I hadn’t seen that many unhappy people since they announced the OJ verdict!
Had this been filmed as a straight horror film (and with an appropriate ending) it may have worked. Unfortunately, by using the POV method it ends up a laughable mess. The acting just isn’t convincing enough to pass as “reality” and you’re left with little more than shaky camera work and a bad case of whiplash from shaking your head incredulously for 87 minutes.
I highly recommend this movie….provided that its 3am, you’ve got a bad case of insomnia, and its the only thing playing on your cable TV. Even if the Vatican had endorsed this film, Jesus couldn’t save this turkey!