Directed by William Brent Bell
The subject of possession is one of the most heated and debated topics of our time. Can demons seize control over humans, thereby causing great suffering to both themselves and everyone around them, or is it just mental illness? The Catholic Church would have you believe that latter, but let’s face it; some things just cannot be explained, and if there is no such thing as demonic possession, why even train exorcists? Paramount Insurge’s new film The Devil Inside tackles these questions while delivering some genuine scares to kick off the new year.
It all starts with a chilling phone call to police placed by a woman named Maria Rossi (Crowley). She alerts the authorities that she has slain three people. Upon arriving at her home, the police discover a massacre, and once Rossi is in custody, it becomes really apparent that she’s not your ordinary killer. Something is just … off. So off in fact that instead of being imprisoned, she’s shipped off to Italy and locked down in an asylum.
Two decades later her daughter, Isabella (Andrade), has some questions about not only her mother and the crimes she has committed but also whether or not her mental illness runs in the family. After digging a bit, it turns out that her mom had killed the three victims while they were performing an exorcism on her. This raises a whole new set of questions, and Isabella is determined to find out exactly what happened that grisly evening and what is currently happening with her mother.
To get answers, she and her filmmaker friend, Michael (Grama), travel to the Centrino Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Italy, where her mother has been locked away. Their objective? Figure out if her mother is mentally ill or demonically possessed. While in Rome, our pair meet up with two young exorcists (Quarterman, Helmuth) who convince the duo that in order to understand what is happening with Maria, they first have to understand what possession is. From there our group of truth-seekers end up taking one hell of a ride into the mouth of darkness where science and religion collide into a crescendo of terror.
Possession flicks are really hard to pull off effectively because of the shadow of the giant 400-pound gorilla in the room known as The Exorcist. If you go too far, you’re ripping it off. If you don’t go far enough, your flick is labeled boring. It truly is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t kind of problem for a filmmaker to have to face. Thankfully, director William Brent Bell walks the fine line between inspiration and imitation with nary a misstep. The Devil Inside is an effective thriller that’s guaranteed to send some solid chills down the spines of audiences. It’s only real shortcomings come from the cinéma vérité shooting style it utilizes. Though not in abundance, the usual pitfalls of the technique are present and accounted for along with a couple of horror movie clichés that serve to temporarily snap you briefly out of the otherwise immersive experience. Yes, sometimes our characters will make questionable choices that will lead to all sorts of bad things, but once you see how well said things are executed, you can for the most part forgive them.
For all those out there whose main complaints about cinéma vérité style films is that the camera is too shaky and you really never see anything, do not worry. The camera work never gets too out of hand, and when the shocks and scares do come, they hit like a punch to the jaw.
The film is loaded with nightmarish moments that will have people both shrieking and averting their eyes. A special mention has to go out to Bonnie Morgan, who plays the character of Rosa, and of course Suzan Crowley, who, much like Lorna Raver did in Drag Me to Hell, completely steals the show. These ladies go above and beyond the call of spooky with their performances, and there’s no way this flick would have been as effective without them.
While not perfect, this tale of possession hits way more than it misses and follows perfectly in the footsteps of the Paranormal Activity franchise, proving that more can be done with passion and imagination than with an inflated budget. The Devil Inside is home to moments that will shock, scare, disturb, and leave you gasping. It’s a trip to the dark side that’s well worth taking. No matter what you believe in … say your prayers.
3 1/2 out of 5