By Ellie Pullen
Since the growthin popularity of showcasing a film as a ‘found footage’ documentary, The Devil Inside looked set to be one of 2012’s scariest ‘home-made’ offerings.
However, the reality of this faux-documentary is far less chilling. The premise seemed promising: a young woman, Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade) travels to Rome to visit her mother, Maria (Suzan Crowley), who was sectioned after murdering two priests and a nun during an exorcism, in a Catholic psychiatric ward.
Isabella wants to find out what really happened and if her mother truly is possessed by a demon or just criminally insane.
Possessed or insane?
As the film unfolds, the nature of her mother’s condition becomes clear and Isabella begins trying to find a way to save her.
Following in the footsteps of the unparalelled success of the Paranormal Activity trilogy, The Devil Inside attempts to blur fact and fiction by playing up the ‘real footage found’ gimmick, but Andrade’s performance is too wooden to be anywhere near as convincing as Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat in Paranormal Activity.
After a gory opening – presented as the ‘real’ police footage of the murder scene following Maria Rossi’s exorcism – the film slows down considerably and begins to focus more on characterisation; a good idea yet overall ineffectual. This provides a nice back drop, but slows the film down and lacks that crucial horror element.
It is only when Isabella reaches Rome with documentary filmmaker Michael Shaefer (Ionut Grama) and they visit Maria that a small amount of tension begins to mount.
The audience is shown unnerving CCTV footage of inside her room, attacking doctors and banging her head until she bleeds. Crowley’s acting is too forced to make her insanity – or possession – seem genuine.
Religion plays a huge part in the film and forms the basis of the plot. Two rogue priests, Father Ben Rawlings (Simon Quarterman) and Father David Keane (Evan Helmuth), blend science and religion, defy the Vatican by performing back alley exorcisms and agree to take on Maria’s case.
Director William Brent Bell’s scare tactics for The Devil Inside mainly comprise sudden movements and loud noises – a technique which has the full potential to terrify and shock an audience, if used well. Unfortunately that isn’t the case in The Devil Inside. Despite its transparent efforts to keep the audience on edge, any ‘unexpected’ twists are predictable and tension evaporates quickly.
Ultimately, it almost manages to unerve the audience with its quick movements and sudden explosions of noise. Throughout, scenes fall flat and are anti-climatic, rather than leaving viewers hiding behind their hands.
Veteran horror fans will probably find it flat and more like a psychological thriller than a full-blown horror movie. I say save your money and go buy Paranormal Activity on DVD instead.