EXPECTATIONS: Oh, goody, another exorcism-themed movie. Next to aliens, this has been one of the most irritating and bland Hollywood trends of the past few years. Oh, and this one is from the director of Stay Alive, which you guys might know better as that movie about a killer video game made by people who have clearly never been near one. I say we combine all these elements and make a movie about a group of priests who are also HARDCORE GAMERS. They find an alien who is possessed by the devil, but they find it INSIDE the game, and if they exorcise it in-game, they exorcise it in real-life. Actually, that sounds way better than what I'm about to watch.
Wow, how do you do that? It's amazing.
REALITY: If you have access to the internet, you've probably heard about the major problem with The Devil Inside. (If you don't have access to the internet, how are you reading this?) In case you haven't, let me tell you. This is not a spoiler because there's literally nothing to spoil. This film doesn't have an ending. And I don't mean boo-hoo-No-Country-for-Old-Men-was-too-ambiguous no ending, I mean it literally does not conclude. At what is normally the beginning of the third act, at the height of the tension and action, the movie cuts to black and explains you can go to its website, which I see no reason to link here, for more information. This is not a joke, it is seriously what happens.
Before I get too much into that, I want to back up and deal with the rest of the movie. The ending is all anyone wants to talk about, so let's save that for later. The Devil Inside is presented documentary-style, following a young woman named Isabella (Fernanda Andrade) who goes to Rome to confront her mother (Suzan Crowley), a mental patient who has been locked away for murdering three people during an exorcism twenty years ago. Along the way, she meets a pair of loose-cannon priests on the edge, who have gotten into the habit of performing exorcisms unauthorized by the church. Things pretty much go as expected from there. At no time is the INXS song of the same name played.
Hey, guys, did you ever see that movie The Mask? I swear I do the best impression of the guy in that movie, just give me a minute-- GIRRRRRKKK!Comparisons to last year's The Last Exorcism are inevitable, so let's do that. Both films focus more on character development than jump scares, though none of these characters are as deep or interesting as Last Exorcism's Reverend Cotton Marcus. The film isn't particularly scary, but it is more interesting than most horror films. However, what I have a problem with here is the difference between "shock" and "scare." Since The Devil Inside isn't creative enough to scare the audience, it instead tries to shock them with disturbing (and more than slightly misogynistic) visuals, including a brutally graphic on-screen suicide that left me wondering how they got away with showing it. It's effective at the time you're watching, but it feels cheaper the longer you're out of the theater. Barring that, however, the performances are all decent, the script is at least passable, This is a solid two-star film.
Then we get to the ending. This fascinates me, really. It's somewhat telling of the age that we're living in where movies are now giant advertisements for ARGs, rather than the other way around. It's also amazing proof that people at movie studios are completely out of touch with their viewing audience, because someone had to look at this and say "Yes, this seems like something audiences will tolerate. This most certainly won't lead to reports of people booing in theaters all over the country."
But if I may play "The Devil Inside's advocate" here, this is really the only way it could end. The key is the documentary-style filmmaking. This is not "found footage." This is presented as very meticulously edited, Discovery-Channel storytelling with big captions telling us who each character is. Because of this, it would be nearly impossible to give the story a natural conclusion, because that's not how the situation they've created lends itself. But the problem with that argument is that it's not really believable as a documentary. This is set in a reality where doctors are willing to leave a violently unstable murderer in a room with a young woman completely alone and say "Hope she doesn't kill you!" So, as a result, the only way to enjoy the film is to suspend your disbelief, accept that this isn't realistic in the slightest, and watch it as a horror movie... and then be angered by the lack of an ending. This is really a no-win situation.
Look, I understand what the filmmakers were going for here. It's a bold use of social media, and they were hoping to get another Paranormal Activity situation, where there was enough grass-roots support to justify making another one. This is ridiculous and insulting to the audience. Just like the "scares" in this film are cheaply done, this ending is a cheap attempt to make us beg for more. You can say that the Marvel movies are all advertisements for another film (and we do) but at least they aren't forcing us to ask for The Avengers. This is pathetic pandering for website hits and I find-
Martin R. "Vargo" Schneider was unable to finish this review because it was half-price rib night at Dave & Buster's. For more information and ratings, visit http://www.facebook.com/sacurrentreleases
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