Chad Deal 5:05 p.m., May 23
Review: The Devil Inside
Here’s hoping all cinema-demons of the coming year have been purged with this, the first fright of 2012.
The scariest part of the evening was the pre-show entertainment. A member of a “street team” — a group of performers hired by a studio, in this case Paramount, to work the crowd at promotional events — clad in priestly attire stood before the packed house at Edwards Mira Mesa. He slowly read a prayer, sentence-by-sentence, from off his cell phone hymnal/teleprompter in order to remind the crowd they were about to watch a scary movie. Where was my “Christian sidekick” Lickona when I needed him most?
The Devil Inside is a midget racer in the exorcism derby. Requisite amounts of profanity-spewing hoodoos, demons dancing on the ceiling, bodies with more twists than a Bavarian pretzel factory, and a Dolby-juiced house-pet leaping from out of nowhere to remind viewers that it’s a scary movie they’re watching, are all captured in the hand-held cinematographic splendor of “Blair-Anormal” palsy-cam.
The compulsory film inside The Devil Inside is a documentary attempt by Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade) to come to terms with and eventually ward off the devil in her genes. Along with her crew, a cameraman named Michael (Ionut Grama), Isabella travels to a mental hospital in Rome to visit her mother, Maria (Suzan Crowley). Mom was found innocent by reasons of insanity of killing three people during her own exorcism. Isabella didn’t learn of her mother’s past until she was 25. The first clue that the devil was afoot should have come with the realization that instead of planting mom in a local insane asylum, the “authorities” had her shipped to the Vatican City branch of Bedlam.
Isabella audits classes at Exorcism U where she and her schoolmates enjoy watching 16mm educational films together. Her first meeting with mom is anything but a Norman Rockwell moment. You see, Maria goes a little funny in the head at the mere mention of religion. Never mind that every square inch of the hospital ward is steeped in religious iconography, just don’t talk about God and faith around Ma.
A pair of renegade classmates have branched out on their own, performing exorcisms not sanctioned by the church. Being firm believers in baptism by fire, they poo-poo the academic experience and instead invite Isabella to join them on one of their devilish outings. They find their first case locked away in a basement dungeon with accommodations that make John Wayne Gacy’s crawlspace look like Club Med.
The Devil Inside is a film that is terrified of being terrifying. Director William Brent Bell blows even the most obvious openings for horror. A priest becomes possessed while performing a baptism and begins to give the tot a permanent bath in the holy water. From the angles Bell chooses to film the sequence, it appears as though the cleric is rinsing a pair of socks in Woolite, not trying to drown a newborn.
With much of the country in hibernation, this time of year is traditionally a slow one at the movies. Maybe now you will understand why The Devil Inside dropped the first week of January.
Reader Rating: Zero Stars