Since Cinemascore began operation in 1979 only 19 films have received the lowest score. In this series I’ll be reviewing those 19 films. This week, the found footage exorcism movie The Devil Inside.
So What is it?
The first three movies we’ve covered on this series have all followed the same pattern. A bankable movie star in something marketed as a straightforward genre film, while secretly being far more artistically ambitious. The Devil Inside is the opposite of that, featuring a cast of unknowns and wanting nothing more than to land two or three jump scares and be forgotten before the newspaper men have time to publish their reviews.
The movie is in the style of a faux documentary. A particularly hacky one that can’t decide if it wants to be a talking head issue doc, an impressionistic raw footage style portrait of a young woman’s emotional state, or one of those painfully narcissistic ones where the documentarian keeps ending up on the wrong side of his camera. It’s incompetently shot, jittering and jumping all over the place. Unable to keep people in frame even when they’re sitting still giving an interview. And as it goes on, less and less care is put into maintaining the premise. By the final act, the movie is being filmed and edited by a ghost. Presumably a ghost on a pogo stick.
The story is simple. Simple enough that some people would object to calling it a “story” at all, and would prefer to categorize it as a “premise.” In the late 80s, an exorcism goes poorly and a woman kills three people. She’s declared insane and deported to an asylum in Rome. Now in the present day, her daughter travels to Rome to see her. She sits in on some exorcism classes where the audience is inelegantly told that sometimes people have multiple demons and those demons can possess other people after an exorcism. She befriends a pair of priests who are doing off the books exorcisms and who spend most of their dialogue complaining about the Church’s hypocrisy like a couple of jaded college atheists. She sits in on an exorcism and agrees to let the priests perform one on her mother. It goes better than expected, but the team discovers that her mother was possessed by four demons (hey that’s how many characters are in the movie!) and reminds the audience that demons sometimes jump to other hosts during an exorcism. There’s no reason for the exposition to be delivered so clumsily in a movie whose conceit allows characters to directly address the camera. One of the priests begins acting strangely. He tries to drown a baby at a christening and then he kills himself. The woman immediately begins having a seizure and contorting her body, and so the remaining priest and the filmmaker rush her to a different, better priest. But on the car ride over the director drives the car into traffic and we cut to a title card that reads
The facts surrounding the Rossi Case remain unresolved
For more information about the ongoing investigation visit www.TheRossiFiles.com
TheRossiFiles.com now redirects to a bunch of popups and malware. For a short period in 2012 it contained some marketing material for the film. The film that everyone visiting the website would have already seen. Making the whole movie an ouroboros of advertising.
So Why the F?
Cinemascore is notoriously hard on horror films, with even huge cultural touchstones like The Blair Witch Project (C+) and The Ring (B-) receiving middling scores. But the story here is the ending. At a mere 75 minutes into the film it cuts to a card that says visit this website to see the resolution of the movie. That’s a pretty big slap in the face, and audiences rightfully felt cheated.
So Were they right?
The Devil Inside is basically a scam. It’s an incredibly lazy film. It’s barely 75 minute run time is padded out by leaving the camera running on scenes that have already finished or just filming the actors walking around. They even go as far as running the end credits at 1/20th speed, bringing them a precious ten minutes closer to officially qualifying as a movie. In the rare scene that involves the story, the camera will cut out the moment something is about to happen, meaning that nearly all the scares occur off screen. Its ugly. It’s cliched. It doesn’t take its conceit seriously. Its camera work is nauseating. Its characters hardly even qualify as one dimensional. And above all, it is boring. And the ending is an insult to anyone who paid money to see the film. (Although it comes as a welcome relief to anyone who was watching the movie for essay fodder, and was expecting another drowsy 40 minutes). Sure, F, why not.
A wise choice.
Up Next: America’s sweetheart gets turnt out.