Directed by William Brent Bell
Distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment
The Devil Inside made more money in its opening weekend than The Cabin in the Woods has totaled thus far. Mad yet? How about the fact that the little possession flick everyone hated managed a worldwide total take of $101 million? Despite being one of the most infamously reviled films in recent memory, director William Brent Bell’s little found footage movie turned into a gigantic piece of profit for Paramount Pictures – all while successfully alienating genre fans and film critics with staggering aplomb. Even our own Uncle Creepy helped contribute to the controversy with his postive review! And while I cannot reciprocate this enjoyment of it, I never found it to be the unmitigated disaster others did.
Before it’s revealed that the film doesn’t end so much as cut to black, I would argue that there’s enough happening in The Devil Inside to remain a fairly interesting story of demonic possession. The premise is certainly interesting: rogue priests circumvent the established rules of the Catholic Church by conducting “back room” exorcisms in extreme cases where they feel it necessary to intervene. Into the fray comes Isabella, a young woman who arrives in Rome looking for her mother, and Michael, a documentarian bent on making a name for himself by capturing the sensational nature of the story.
The setup here works because Bell uses cinéma vérité to his advantage, glimpsing us a world in which exorcisms are real and taught by the Catholic Church. The “exorcist school” concept is an excellent one, and could’ve been the subject of its own production. Here it feels like an afterthought at best. The gritty nature of the unsanctioned “basement exorcism” also carries enough authenticity to suggest that the ‘devil’ is out there, able to grab hold of anyone at any minute. It’s impressive that Bell managed to shoot part of his film in Vatican City, an aspect that gives this micro-budgeted “found footage” story an extra sheen of atmosphere and realism. Quite a difference from the usual “kids in the forest” setup usually associated with this style.
Beyond that, the characters play off each other in such a way that there’s always tension between them. They manage to be well-defined people over the span of the 75 minute (sans credits) running time, each with a clear motivation that often conflicts with another. The problem being, unlike the superior The Last Exorcism, these people are cheated out of completing their character arcs – meaning they’re largely the same people at the end as they were at the beginning. A disappointment, considering all that could’ve been done here.
And that’s indicative of a far more serious problem: the ending. Yes, it’s awful. For something that began with some bona fide promise, it’s shocking to see a film that frankly gives up right at the start of act three. Many of my peers thought nothing of spoiling this for me before I had a chance to seeThe Devil Inside and, in hindsight, that was for the best. Long before the credits rolled, I had been bracing myself for something jarring and nonsensical. It’s an ending that provides no catharsis or resolution, instead discarding everything it built up in the name of ‘mystery’.
Now that The Devil Inside is en route to Blu-ray (as a Best Buy Exclusive ONLY) and DVD, it’s my job to tell you if it’s worth your time. Honestly? That’s an answer that will be different for each and every one of you. Having already endured the crushing disappointment of Mass Effect 3‘s cheap and idiotic ending this year, I refuse to cling to the ridiculous sentiment that it’s the journey and not the destination that matters. After all, the journey is no fun if the car you’re driving in goes careening off the road, killing everyone inside. But there are some aspects of The Devil Inside that I legitimately enjoyed, even if very few are followed through to proper fruition. Bell’s film feels like half of one, but with enough pervasive atmosphere to prevent me from calling it a total failure. I know that’s the popular sentiment around this sucker, but I cannot completely share it. After all, last year’s Apollo 18 was a far worse example of this subgenre. The only difference being nobody, not for a second, every believed that pile of junk was going to be any good. This was at least marketed well.
I didn’t hate The Devil Inside. The problem is that its (missing) ending is the only truly memorable moment. Having viewed the film twice now I can comfortable say I’m all set with this one for the rest of my life. But if you’re a sucker for religious horror, blind nuns or creepy contortionists, why not give it a rent and make up your own mind? You might just find something you like. If not, spit on your television all you want.
Paramount brings The Devil Inside to Blu-ray in a high definition transfer that’s exactly what you think it is. Contrast is weak, low-light scenes are blurry and lacking in fine detail/textures. It looks as it should (and as it did theatrically), just don’t expect reference quality material with this disc. On the audio front, however, things are appropriately effective, mainly thanks to the aggressive sound design.
Perhaps still embarrassed by the ‘F’ Cinemascore rating, Paramount declined to offer up any extra material for The Devil Inside‘s home video bow. Five or six years ago I would’ve noted this as a surefire sign of an upcoming double dip, but how many people are clamoring to add The Devil Inside to their collections, exactly? This is a BD and DVD dump. The studio made some money with this movie and clearly didn’t want to spend another dime on a home video release. A pity, really, as I would’ve enjoyed hearing the filmmakers address the controversy in detail.
There’s no way around it: The Devil Inside made a lot of people very angry. I’m not going to fall on the sword for this movie but I’ll maintain it’s a watchable genre offering with a moment or two throughout. That’s probably not enough to warrant a purchase but, depending on your standards, it might be worth a watch on a slow afternoon.
2 1/2 out of 5
0 out of 5
LIQUID SKY Blu-ray Review – You Don’t Need Acid For This Mind Melting Trip
Starring Anne Carlisle, Paula E. Sheppard, Susan Doukas, Otto von Wernherr
Directed by Slava Tsukerman
Distributed by Vinegar Syndrome
Succinctly summing up a slice-of-life avant-garde feature film can be difficult when the picture relies heavily on the audio-visual experience and not necessarily the story. Liquid Sky (1982) is an acid-fueled trip through the emerging New Wave movement, viewed through the vapid lens of the fashion world, where drugs and sex are a commodity to be frequently bartered. The film juxtaposes the grimy and gritty streets of New York City with liberal use of bright, flashy neon, creating an aesthetic that both revels in the post-punk subculture and looks forward to the eye-popping pastels that would come to define the ‘80s. Within this kaleidoscope is a story about androgyny, rampant drug use, pleasures of the flesh, sexual abuse, and tiny invisible aliens that subsist on the endorphins released when people either get high or get down. As director Slava Tsukerman states in the extras, the idea was to craft a unique visual palette, the likes of which cinemagoers maybe hadn’t seen before; in that respect, Tsukerman capably succeeded. This is true subversive cinema, not for the mainstream.
Margaret (Anne Carlisle) is an androgynous NYC fashion model, looking to get her big break into certifiable stardom. Her nightclub fashion shows bring out all the fringe of the city – drug users, sexual deviants, flamboyant personalities, and her rival, Jimmy (also Carlisle), who is a fiend for cocaine. Margaret’s girlfriend, Adrian (Paula E. Sheppard), is a coke dealer whom Jimmy constantly harasses for a quick high, despite the fact he never has any money. Sex is his usual currency, consensual and otherwise. For reasons unknown, though easy to glean, a tiny UFO has landed on top of the apartment building in which Margaret lives, the visitors here to feast on endorphins released by the brain during drug use… or explosive, orgasmic sex.
Jimmy has lunch with his mother, Sylvia (Susan Doukas), a television producer who he sees as little more than a blank check. Sylvia also happens to live across the street from Margaret’s building, making it the perfect vantage point for scientist Johann Hoffman (Otto von Wernherr) to observe the till-now undiscovered, minute aliens and their spacecraft. Margaret, meanwhile, finds herself in one compromising sexual position after the next, often against her will, though these (let’s be honest here and call them) rapes tend to end with her perpetrators dead, a thin crystalline sliver embedded within their skulls; brain removed. Margaret doesn’t quite understand why, but the frequent cause and effect makes her imagine she has unbridled power, able to kill anyone that has sex with her. Eventually, Margaret comes to use this “power” to destroy anyone who crosses or uses her, which as the film will show is a significant number of people. Little does she know, all this time her saviors have been invisible to the naked eye and living atop her building.
The above plot synopsis barely scratches the surface of the weird and insane places this film travels. The biggest takeaway here should be the ground Tsukerman was breaking, which feels very much in the vein of something Andy Warhol might have been behind. The cast is comprised of societal outcasts; populated by homosexuals, ambiguous individuals, gender-fluidity, heroin users, club cronies, kink, vulgarity… all things that in no way conform to societal standards of normality. Carlisle pulls double duty playing two characters – one reprehensible, the other vaguely sympathetic – yet both fall under the rubric of blurred lines; they embody qualities of both masculinity and femininity. Tsukerman embraces the abstract and absurd, delivering a film that is fiercely independent and wholly incapable of direct categorization.
Driving this tour de force is a cutting edge synth score that is constantly active and consistently weird. A trio made up of Tsukerman, Clive Smith, and Brenda I. Hutchinson composed the soundtrack, and it sounds alien and otherworldly while also capturing the essence of the New Wave. The electronic cues and deep bass beats are energetic and repetitive, often making use of bizarre time signatures. Large portions of it reminded me of John Massari’s stellar synth score to Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), as the synthesizer sounds are nearly identical in some passages. The grooves are infectious and wonderfully lo-fi, adding an audible assault to complement the visual feast.
Still, Liquid Sky is something of a challenging watch, especially a first-time viewing when expectations are impossible to calibrate. Because Tsukerman purposely made his film so esoteric and obtuse, it can be tough to settle into a comfortable viewing mindset because so much of the film is uncomfortable and unconventional. The acting quality is passable enough that viewers may find themselves watching the film less as a veritable feature and more a staged, lengthy piece of performance art, which it is in certain respects. Liquid Sky doesn’t lampoon the period or people associated with it, though it does offer an exaggeration of current trends. One thing is for sure, this is bespoke filmmaking at its core and a shining example of the marriage between emerging trends and psychedelic euphoria. Mind blowing stuff.
Vinegar Syndrome is consistently lauded for their A/V work and, boy, did they ever knock this one out of the atmosphere. The 1.85:1 1080p picture is pristine, making it almost impossible to believe this is a low-budget indie from ’82. The original 35mm negative has been given new life via a 4K scan, with the resulting image looking nearly flawless. Aside from literally two or three white flecks the picture is immaculate. Film grain has been smoothed out and minimized without the use of waxy DNR. Fine detail is exquisite, adding a sense of true life to these shiny and squalid environments. Colors are richly saturated and pop off the screen, just as eye-catching neon might do in real life. Color filters are used frequently, bathing the image in hues of blue or green or whatever color fits the intended mood. Skin tones are spot-on and accurate. There is nothing worth complaining about making this one of the finest images Blu-ray is capable of producing.
Although the audio is a single-channel English DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono track you’d never know it from the sonic quality. The synthesized score is catchy and constant, causing the film’s soundfield to be brimming with life at every moment. The aggressive mix and high levels cause a mild sensation of discomfort and unease for viewers, ensuring the picture is never viewed too comfortably. Dialogue is understandable and totally clean, with no indication of hissing or pops at any point. Subtitles are available in English.
An introduction is available before the feature begins, with director Slava Tsukerman giving viewers a brief greeting along with praise for Vinegar Syndrome’s new home video edition.
An audio commentary is available, featuring director Slava Tsukerman.
The disc also contains an isolated soundtrack, highlighting that groundbreaking score.
Interview with Slava Tsukerman is a recent chat with the Russian director, who touches upon his career, influences, and the legacy of his most endearing creation.
Interview with Anne Carlisle is a similarly themed chat, with the leading lady discussing topics ranging from her early beginnings to where her career has taken her now.
Liquid Sky Revisited is a nearly-hour long documentary covering all aspects of the film’s production, with Tsukerman delving into every bit of minutia behind the production, genesis, inspirations, etc.
Q&A from 2017 Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers Screening, featuring Tsukerman, Carlisle, and co-composer Clive Smith.
A lengthy reel of outtakes, alternate opening sequence, rehearsal footage, multiple trailers, and a still gallery complete the wealth of bonus features found here.
Additionally, the cover artwork is reversible allowing for display of the original key art or newly commissioned artwork.
- BRAND NEW 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM from the 35mm original negative
- Brand new commentary track with: Slava Tsukerman (director)
- Video interview with Slava Tsukerman
- Video interview with Anne Carlisle (actress)
- Director’s introduction
- “Liquid Sky Revisited” (2017) – 50 minute making-of documentary
- Q&A from a 2017 Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers screening with: Slava Tsukerman, Anne Carlisle and Clive Smith (music)
- Isolated soundtrack
- Never before seen outtakes
- Alternate opening sequence
- Behind the scenes rehearsal footage
- Multiple theatrical trailers
- Still gallery
- Artwork designed by Derek Gabryszak
- Reversible cover artwork
- English SDH subtitles
Supremely psychedelic and infinitely eccentric, Liquid Sky was 1983’s most successful independent film and for good reason: it is impossible to categorize and there are few films that color outside the lines so vividly and uniquely. You can’t explain it or understand it; you just have to see it. Vinegar Syndrome have raised the bar with their impeccable a/v quality and wonderful selection of extras.
Zena’s Period Blood: Dying for a DEAD END
It can be difficult finding horror films of quality, so allow me to welcome you to your salvation from frustration. “Zena’s Period Blood” is here to guide you to the horror films that will make you say, “This is a good horror. Point blank. PERIOD.”
“Zena’s Period Blood” focuses on under-appreciated and hidden horror films.
How do you turn $900,000 into $77,000,000? Offer directors Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa the initial amount and give them the freedom to let their minds wander. In 2003, both directors accomplished this unimaginable feat with Dead End. Under the clouds of a small budget, typical poster and insubstantial trailer, most viewers forecasted one long stretch of boredom. However, 15 minutes in and I was as hooked as a pervert in a strip club with his tax refund money. In 83 minutes, the movie unravels and exposes intelligent craftsmanship with story, acting and location, introducing us to the Harrington family and their demise.
After 20 years following the same route, Frank Harrington (Ray Wise) decides to take his family down a shortcut to his in-laws home during Christmas Eve. Wife Laura (Lin Shaye) sings in the passenger seat, serving as the optimistic family unifier who is often ignored by her husband and children. Behind Frank is their oldest child Marion (Alexandra Holden), unnervingly sheltered under the arm of her soon-to-be fiancé, Brad. And forever mom’s favorite boy is Richard (Mick Cain), who rocks out to Marilyn Manson blaring in his headphones. After this brief introduction to the characters and their distinct personalities, we witness everyone fall asleep, including Frank, who refuses to let anyone else drive.
Several seconds pass before the Jeep Wagoneer veers into the opposite lane. Gradually, a honk pleads from an approaching car, startling the Harrington family and forcing Frank to fight with the wheel until he brings the Jeep to a stop. Wide-awake, the family begins to move forward, now entrapped on a new, never-ending road.
I could elaborate on so many scary details in the movie, but the never-ending road stands out the most. What makes it worse is that there are signs for a town called Marcott, with an arrow indicating the town is straight ahead. But the Harringtons never reach the town. This scares me because I believe that every human being has a mental list of things they are scared of or things they should keep an eye out for in certain situations. Unfortunately, this movie exists to expand that list. What sucks for me is that my husband likes taking back roads. Because I strive to have a happy marriage and a peaceful death, I usually fall asleep to avoid an argument and the grim reaper, both of which usually exist on these particular roads. However, I never imagined that a back road could become a never-ending road. Man that would suck!
Speaking of never-ending, the directors became devils of discomfort by never really showing the deceased’s mutilated body, leaving your brain struggling to piece together the unseen image long after the movie ends. Throughout the movie, the family and Brad are picked off one by one. We mainly suffer these devatations through the reactions of the family members that are still alive, sometimes witnessing them lift a severed ear or caress a charred hand. This movie taught me that I can still taste bile at the back of my throat when a mutilation is suggested rather than shown.
Directors Andrea and Canepa accomplished greatness in Dead End with little time and little money. It is a testament that imagination coupled with skill is the true combination to capturing a big budget feel. I hope that all the individuals behind this movie have a long, never-ending road ahead of them because they have delivered brilliance to the world. This is a good horror. Point blank. Period.
In addition to contributing to Dread Central, Zena Dixon has been writing about all things creepy and horrific for over six years at RealQueenofHorror.com. She has always loved horror films and will soon be known directing her own feature-length horror. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @LovelyZena.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 164 – THE CLEANSE
Wait no longer, boils and ghouls! Today is the day you’ve been waiting for; today is the day we sink our teeth into 2018’s The Cleanse! What’s that? You’ve never heard of The Cleanse?! Well, neither had we, but horror releases are slim pickings right now, so we take what we can get. At least we can all agree that we’ve been dying to see Johnny Galecki in something other than Big Bang Theory, right? No? Well, fuck. Here’s an episode about his new movie anyway. What are we even doing?
It was crazy of me to think I could help the police, but I’m going to keep researching, keep writing, there are stories that need to be told, so… here’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 164!
If you enjoy the show, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.
The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, and YouTube.
- Steven Millan I recently bought the DVD of DEAD END and so far I'm ten minutes into it and despite the obnoxiousness of Mick Cain's potty mouthed character,things do look like they're heading in very interesting...
- Steven Millan Hey Matthew,why don't you contact the likes of Uncle Creepy(alias Steve Barton),Mr. Dark,Woman In Black,and Jonathan Barkan about that proposed editing gig of yours after being heavily dismayed by...
- Nick Taylor Yeah, I was unable to find any cut other than the Shout Factory Blu ray, which is actually pretty hilarious...
- Nicholas McCrae Kimble Discounting some of the millenium series reboots, yes, that is exactly the case.
- Matthew Horak stopped reading after "things go so hot". would you like me to be your editor? You had ONE job...here, let me do your job for you.... "things [don't] go so hot" or "things [do] go so hot". Thank...
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