Religi-horror is currently experiencing its biggest resurgence since the Satanic-panic of the early ’70s, presumably because of the proliferation of recent doomsday kook cults.
While The Last Exorcism (2010) and The Unborn (2009) both offered up demonic hijinks in the grand pea-soup-spewing tradition, they were relatively high-gloss productions.
By contrast, The Devil Inside – a surprise US No.1 hit – offers us a static-y, smeary, Blair Witch-ian hell-on-Earth, in more ways than one. If the phrase ‘shaky-cam’ makes you queasy, then you’re in for a very rough ride.
The story follows a young woman named Isabella (TV actress Fernanda Andrade) as she tries to find out the truth about her mum (Suzan Crowley), who went bananas in 1989 and ended up slaughtering three people, all of them members of the cloth.
She’s currently shuttered tightly in a loony bin in Rome, housed within eyeball distance of the Vatican. Turns out mum’s killing spree may be the result of demonic possession, but the Church wants nothing to do with the case.
So what's a girl to do? She hires a couple of rogue exorcists (!) and a cameraman prone to a severe case of the wobbles, and get to work battling Lucifer and/or whatever demons are bothering her nutty mother.
What follows after the initial set-up is about what you’d expect in a post-Paranormal Activity world: short, sharp shocks delivered via the “gritty realism” of “found footage”: cue screaming, bone-cracking exorcisms mostly staged in dirty, dank basements.
Truth told, the acting is negligible, the direction haphazard, and the faux-doc bits are spew-inducing.
But Devil Inside’s major selling point, it turns out, is its ending. Brutally abrupt, hilariously unsatisfying, and as nihilistic as any ’70s downer-flick, it’s calculated to either elate or enrage. Odds are, it will probably do both.
A ludicrous shaggy-devil story punctuated by jarring foundfootage frights, this is a low-budget, low-watt belly botherer saved from history’s dustbin by a few gruesome moments and a gob-smack of an ending that (almost) makes it worth the slog.