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
Victor Crowley Blu-ray Review – Killer Special Features Make This a Must-Own
Directed by Adam Green
Distributed by Dark Sky Films
Like many of you horror fans out there, I was surprised as hell when Adam Green announced that there was not only going to be the fourth entry in his famed Hatchet series but that the movie had already been filmed and was going to be screening across the country.
Of course, I wanted to get to one of those screenings as soon as possible, but unfortunately, there were no events in my neck of the woods here in Gainesville, Fl., and so I had to bide my time and await the Blu-ray.
Then a few days ago, the Blu-ray for Victor Crowley landed on my doorstep and I jumped right into watching the film. Short story, I loved it. But we’ll get into all of that more in-depth below. For now, let’s do a quick rundown on the film for those two or three horror fans out there who aren’t familiar with the film and its premise.
Victor Crowley is the fourth entry in the Hatchet series, a franchise that follows the tale of a deformed man that accidentally met the wrong end of his father’s hatchet long ago and now roams the Louisiana swamp each night as a “Repeater”, aka a ghost that doesn’t know it is dead and thus cannot be killed. Ever. Well, maybe not ever. After all, Victor was supposedly killed at the end of Hatchet III by a combination of Danielle Harris, his father’s ashes, and a grenade launcher. Dead to rights, right? Not so much.
In this fourth entry/reboot, a group of indie horror filmmakers, lead by the adorable Katie Booth, accidentally resurrect Crowley just as the original trilogy’s lone survivor (Parry Shen) is visiting the swamp one final time in the name of cold hard cash. Long story short, Shen’s plane crashes with his agent (Felissa Rose), his ex-wife (Krystal Joy Brown), and her film crew in tow. Some survive the initial crash, some don’t. As you can imagine, the lucky ones died first.
Victor Crowley is a true return to form for Adam Green, who sat out of the director’s chair on the third film. As always, Green doesn’t shy away from the over-the-top comedy and gore the franchise is well known for. The blood rages and the sight-gags hit fast and unexpectedly. And, speaking of the sight-gags, there’s evidently a shot in this Blu-ray version of the film that was cut from the “Unrated” version released on VOD. The shot is one I won’t spoil here, but for the sake of viewing Green’s initial vision alone, the Blu-ray for Victor Crowley is really the only way to own this film. Don’t get me wrong, there are (many) more reasons to shell out the cash for this Blu-ray, but I’ll get into those soon.
Back to the film itself, what makes this fourth entry in the series one of the very best Hatchet films (if not THE best) is Adam Green’s honesty. Not only does he conquer a few demons with the ex-wife subplot, but he gives us a truly tragic moment via Tiffany Shepis’ character that had me in stunned silence. Her death is not an easy kill to pull off in a notoriously over-the-top slasher series, but it earned mucho respect from this guy.
Basically, if you loved the original trilogy, you will love this one as well. If you mildly enjoyed the other films, this one will surely make you a fan. Slow clap, Adam Green.
Let it be known that I’m a massive fan of fly-on-the-wall filmmaking documentaries. Like many of you out there, I find film production to be utterly fascinating and thus have grown a little tired of the typical making-of featurettes we get on Blu-rays. You know the ones. The director talks about his vision for the film, the cast say how much fun they had on-set with the other actors and crew, and we get cutaways to people dancing and trying to kiss the behind-the-scenes camera – all usually set to upbeat music.
While I’ll take what I can get, these kinds of behind-the-scenes features have grown to be little more than tiresome and superficial. But no worries here my friends as Adam Green has pulled out all the BS and given us a full-length, 90-minute behind-the-scenes feature called “Fly on the Wall” that shows it how it really is on the set.
Highlights include new Hatchet D.P. Jan-Michael Losada, who took over for Will Barratt this time around, who is little less than a f*cking hilarious rockstar, a front row seat to the making of Felissa Rose’s death scene, a creepy-cool train ghost story prank by Green, a clever impromptu song via Krystal Joy Brown (Sabrina), and a fun bit towards the end where Green and the SFX crew create the “gore inserts” in (basically) the backyard after filming. Good times all around.
The documentary then ends with the Facebook Live video of Adam Green announcing Victor Crowley‘s surprise premiere at that Hatchet 10th Anniversary screening. A great way to end a killer making-of documentary making his disc a must-own for this special feature alone.
But wait, it gets better. On top of the film itself and the above-mentioned “Fly on the Wall” documentary, the disc features an extensive interview with Adam Green called “Raising the Dead… Again.” This interview is basically Green going over the same speech he gave to the crowd at the surprise unveiling shown at the end of the “Fly on the Wall” doc, but that said, it’s great to hear Green tells his inspiring story to us directly.
So while this feature treads water all of us have been through below (especially fans of Green’s podcast The Movie Crypt), Green is always so charming and brutally honest that we never get tired of him telling us the truth about the ins-and-outs of crafting horror films in this day and age. Again, good stuff.
Additionally, the disc also boasts two audio commentaries, one with Adam Green and actors Parry Shen, Laura Ortiz, and Dave Sheridan, and another “technical” commentary with Adam Green, cinematographer Jan-Michael Losada, editor Matt Latham, and make-up effects artist Robert Pendergraft.
Add in the film’s teaser and trailer, and Victor Crowley is a must-own on Blu-ray.
- Audio commentary with writer/director Adam Green and actors Parry Shen, Laura Ortiz, and Dave Sheridan
- Audio commentary with writer/director Adam Green, cinematographer Jan-Michael Losada, editor Matt Latham, and make-up effects artist Robert Pendergraft
- Raising the Dead… Again – Extensive interview with writer/director Adam Green
- Behind the Scenes – Hour-long making-of featurette
One of the best, if not THE best, entries in the Hatchet series, with special features that are in-depth and a blast (and considering all other versions of the film have been castrated for content), this Blu-ray is really the only way to own Adam Green’s Victor Crowley.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 152 – Cloverfield Paradox & The Ritual
Last week Netflix shocked the world by not only releasing a new trailer for Cloverfield Paradox during the Superbowl, but announcing the film would be available to stream right after the game. In a move no one saw coming, Netflix shook the film industry to it’s very core. A few days later, Netflix quietly released horror festival darling: The Ritual.
Hold on to your Higgs Boson, because this week we’ve got a double header for ya, and we’re not talking about that “world’s largest gummy worm” in your mom’s nightstand. Why was one film marketed during the biggest sporting event of the year, and why was one quietly snuck in like a pinky in your pooper? Tune in a find out!
Meet me at the waterfront after the social for the Who Goes There Podcast episode 152!
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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.
The Housemaid Review – Love Makes the Ghost Grow Stronger
Written and directed by Derek Nguyen
Vietnamese horror films are something of a rarity due largely to pressure from the country’s law enforcement agencies that have warned filmmakers to steer clear of the genre in recent years. The country’s exposure to the industry is limited, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a handful of filmmakers out there that are passionate and determined to get their art out into the world. IFC Midnight has stepped up to the plate to shepherd writer/director Derek Nguyen’s period ghost thriller The Housemaid in hopes of getting it in front of American horror fans.
Aside from a few moments that delve into soap opera territory, Nguyen’s film is full of well-crafted scares and some surprisingly memorable scenes that sneak up at just the right times. For history buffs there’s also a lot of material to sink your teeth into dealing with French Colonial rule and mistreatment of the Vietnamese during the 1950’s. Abuse that, if you’re not careful, could lead to a vengeful spirit seeking atonement.
Desperate and exhausted after walking for miles, an orphaned woman named Linh (Kate) seeks refuge and employment as a housemaid at a large rubber plantation in 1953 French Indochina. Once hired, she learns of the dark history surrounding the property and how her mere presence has awakened an accursed spirit that wanders the surrounding woods and dark corners of the estate. Injured in battle, French officer Sebastien Laurent (Richaud) returns to preside over the manor and, unexpectedly, begins a dangerous love affair with Linh that stirs up an even darker evil.
Told in flashbacks, the abuse of workers reveals a long history of mistreatment that enshrouds the surrounding land in darkness and despair, providing ripe ground for a sinister spirit that continues to grow stronger. Once it’s revealed that the ghost has a long history with Laurent before her death, the reasons she begins to kill become more and more obvious as the death toll piles up. Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle among Laurent, Linh, and the specter of Laurent’s dead wife.
Powered by desire to avenge tortured workers of the past and the anger fueled by seeing her husband in the embrace of a peasant girl, the apparition is frightening and eerily beautiful as she stalks her victims. One scene in particular showing her wielding an axe is the most indelible image to take away from the film, and other moments like it are what make The Housemaid a standout. The twisted sense of romance found in a suffering spirit scorned in death is the heart of the story even if the romance between the two living lovers winds up having more screen time.
The melodrama and underwhelming love scenes between Linh and Laurent are the least effective part of The Housemaid, revealing some of Nguyen’s limitations in providing dialogue and character moments that make us connect with these two characters as much as we do when the ghost is lurking around the frame. What does help to save the story is a well kept secret revealing a connection with the housemaid and the apparition.
Honestly, if this was an American genre film, the limitations seen in The Housemaid might cause more criticism, but seeing an emerging artist and his team out of Vietnam turn out a solid product like this leads me to highlight the good and champion the effort in hopes of encouraging more filmmakers to carry the flag. Ironically, the film is set for a U.S. remake in the near future.
The Housemaid hits select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms TODAY, February 16th.
Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle.
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