The Devil Inside (2012)
★ / ★★★★
When Isabella was a child, three members of the church attempted to perform an exorcism on her mother, Maria (Suzan Crowley), which led to a tragedy. Maria telephoned for help and confessed to killing two priests and a nun. Years later, Isabella (Fernanda Andrade) now in her mid-twenties, felt that she needed to understand what really happened to her mother. Along with Michael (Ionut Grama), the cameraman, the duo decided to make a documentary of their entire trip to Italy. Their first assignment was to visit Maria who’d been transferred to Centrino Mental Hospital. The biggest problem with “The Devil Inside,” written by William Brent Bell and Matthew Peterman, was not its utter unoriginality when it came to presenting the basics of demonic possession and exorcism, but its slothful execution and poor control of the camera. The filmmakers strived to create a realistic mood in the most elementary and lazy manner: by shaking the camera so vigorously and aimlessly, I began to get very angry because the images that were supposed to inspire audience reaction were reluctantly shown. Keep in mind that this is coming from a person who can withstand a decent amount of camera convulsions. Because certain images were so evasive, perhaps the intention was to tease us into looking closer at the screen. It would have worked if the tension was established in varying rates and actually allowed horrific scenes to reach several zeniths punctuated by creative freedom by means of a sense of humor or false alarm. The picture was deathly one-note and I sat in my chair unmoved, possessed by boredom. Furthermore, since the material spent much of its time with distractions, like whether or not Fathers Ben Rawlings (Simon Quarterman) and David Keane (Evan Helmuth), priests who performed exorcisms without permission from the church, ought to continue to support Isabella’s project. Suddenly, the picture became more about Father Ben’s ego of wanting to capture every moment on film–evidence, he called them–and Father David’s concern for losing his job. Isabella was relegated to a typical one-dimensional character who had nothing to do but scream at the right moments, only there was nothing worth screaming over due to a drought of genuinely scary scenes. The material touched upon the relationship between mental illness and demonic possession, so I was surprised that there weren’t more scenes between mother and daughter. Some psychological disorders like schizophrenia are known to be genetically linked which means it can be passed on from parent to offspring. Why not explore that connection between science and religion? Should we trust our protagonist completely? The picture could have been more interesting if had been a little more ambitious. Personally, I’m not scared of demonic possessions. What I am a little bit more apprehensive about, however, is the possibility that it’s real. As a person of science, I am willing to believe that science doesn’t hold all the answers. If it did, the universe, in my eyes, would be less captivating. “The Devil Inside,” directed by William Brent Bell, could have used a little bit of mystery, an edge that would allow it to stand out from the rest of the exorcism movies. But since it lacked inspiration, it’s just another nondescript writing on the wall created by a madman.