The Devil Inside‘s greatest achievement to date is just how staggeringly fast it fell – like Lucifer cast from Heaven – from dominating its opening weekend to plummetting right off the top ten as word of mouth overcame the fearsome viral campaign showing audiences chomping down on their own fists as they watched unknown terrors unfold.
Stay Alive duo William Brent Bell and Matthew Peterman’s The Devil Inside isn’t as bad as you might have heard, mostly it gives you the impression that you’ve already seen it about six times before, coming as it does, after the exorcism micro-genre peaked relatively early on with 1973’s chilling Exorcist, and the later attempt to marry it to found footage resulted in the passable Last Exorcism.
Like the exorcisms which preceded it, The Devil Inside is all about girls crab walking, spitting profanities, speaking in tongues, and taunting onlookers with intimate knowledge of their transgressions.
Unlike the exorcisms that preceded it, The Devil Inside lacks resonance and meaningful narrative – we’re introduced to the plot, a documentary following Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade) as she travels to Rome to try and understand why her disturbed mother Maria Rossi (the admittedly chilling Suzan Crowley) killed three people in a failed exorcism in 1989, and then quickly moved on to marvel at the crab walking like a clock-watching tour guide hustling us through the Louvre at closing time.
Since John Carpenter’s Halloween taught us to focus our eyes on the areas of the screen framed by the protagonist, found footage horror movies like Paranormal Activity – and of course the mother of the genre, The Blair Witch Project – played on our expectations and wheezed fresh unlife into horror, ratcheting up the tension to unbearable levels by making us focus on the nothing over our teary, snot-nosed victim’s shoulder, and have nothing happen.
The Devil Inside meanwhile, can’t stop showing you things – so while there’s plenty of shocks, courtesy of contortionists and shuddering camerawork, there’s almost always something happening when you expect it to happen once the opening third has been vaulted and the film’s one mystery – is possession real? – solved.
Without much of a storyline to carry it on, all we’re left with is a barrage of meaningless encounters, migraine-inducing camera-work and populated by characters in which you lack any real emotional investment, and to release that into the same world as The Cabin In The Woods is pretty sad.