out of Five
Running time: 75
The Devil Inside has the occasional creepy moment but it's let down by a patchy script and some uneven performances, while the found footage conceit doesn't add anything beyond an excuse to bring the film to an abrupt end.
What's it all about?
Directed by William Brent Bell, The Devil Inside opens with some grainy video footage of an American murder case from 1989, where Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley) apparently killed three people and was subsequently institutionalised in Italy. Twenty years later, her daughter Isabella (Fernanda Andrade) decides to investigate what happened to her mother, so she hires documentary filmmaker Michael (Ionut Grama) to record her findings and travels to Rome, hoping to be allowed to visit her.
When she visits the Centrino Hospital for the Criminally Insane, Isabella is shocked by her mother's mental state, though the doctors refuse to admit that she's possessed. After befriending two young exorcists (Simon Quartermain as Father Ben and Evan Helmuth as Father David) and witnessing them in action, Isabella decides to allow them to perform an unorthodox exorcism on Maria, but things don't go exactly as planned.
Fernanda Andrade has an appealing screen presence as Isabella, but she's poorly served by the script, which fails to explore her character and requires her to make a series of wrong-headed decisions that go unexplained, such as exactly why she needs a documentary filmmaker in the first place. Similarly, Helmuth is good as troubled Father David, but Quartermain fails to convince in his shouty scenes, Grama does so little that he barely registers as a character (he's badly underwritten) and Crowley's possession sequences fail to convince.
To be fair, the film does have a handful of creepy moments and a smattering of gory details but all its best ideas are stolen from other, better exorcism movies (the documentary set-up from The Last Exorcism, the contorted bodies from The Exorcism of Emily Rose and so on). That said, it does have perhaps cinema's only “exorcism on the back seat of a car” sequence, so at least there's that.
The main problem is that the found footage conceit doesn't add anything beyond an excuse for an abrupt ending; in fact, the ending is so sudden (and the film itself so short) that you wonder whether the production simply ran out of money. On top of everything else, the dialogue occasionally feels forced (a problem for a film purporting to be a documentary) and the plot is frequently confusing – for example, much is made about Maria being possessed by four demons, but the script fails to actually do anything with that idea.
While not exactly unwatchable, The Devil Inside fails to get under your skin and there's nothing here that hasn't been done better elsewhere.