Before saying a single word about 'The Devil Inside,' I feel that a few pre-qualifiers about the film need be known to potential viewers. First, this low budget, high grossing feature was not screened for critics before it debuted to audiences, a sign that Paramount, the distributor, was afraid of negative publicity scaring away potential moviegoers. The studio chose wisely, as the film is among the lowest rated films of 2012 (at least, so far...), with a measly 7 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a poor 3.7 mark on IMDb, and the distinction of being the worst-reviewed wide release of 2012 so far on Metacritic. The cover for this release masks a critic quote (possibly the lone positive quote made for the movie!) that seems rather forced, one that pushes the agenda of the film and one of its major side plots, while the most recognizable photo or scene from the flick, that of a blind nun (ooh...symbolism...), only appears in the film, in passing, for less than two seconds. Also, there are no INXS songs featured in this movie. Sorry for getting a particular hit of theirs stuck in your head for saying that...
A "found footage" type flick (see: 'The Blair Witch Project,' 'Paranormal Activity'), 'The Devil Inside brings very few "new" ideas to the table. If anything, this truncated feature feels like 'Paranormal'-light, an obvious imitator, what with the way that the baddies (again demons) have no physical presence, acting sight unseen or through the bodies of others. 'The Devil Inside' actually plays off nicely as a mockumentary of sorts, what with the way it chronicles a woman's journey into the world of exorcism, but really, the journey doesn't offer the intelligence of 'The Last Exorcism,' and even makes that film's poor ending seem golden by comparison.
In 1989, Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley) killed three people, including a priest and her husband, and promptly dialed 9-1-1. Found innocent due to insanity, Rossi has been locked up in the Centrino Hospital in Italy ever since. Twenty years later, Rossi's daughter Isabella (Fernanda Andrade) seeks out her mother for answers as to what exactly happened. Alongside a documentary filmmaker and two priests who work secret exorcisms without church approval, Isabella discovers that her mother is, indeed, possessed, and tries to help by using her newfound allies to extract the demon haunting her.
'The Devil Inside' is a joke, plain and simple. It's not scary, in any way. It's interesting, yes, due to the way the story progresses, but it's also beyond frustrating due to the cheap and tacky scare tactics and sometimes random plot progression. Anyone who pays attention during this movie will pick up on a few key words or phrases that are obviously spotlighted due to their importance later in the movie, and since the film does exactly what it teases by exposing us to said ideas, it really doesn't have any shock. Horror fans won't have enough targets to mock and have a good time, since any genre veteran will find this feature nothing more than a parody of successful similar films. There's nothing new to be found in this formula-heavy copycat.
There is one memorable sequence, just one, in the entire movie, as a baptism goes horribly awry. Aside from that, there's really nothing to talk about in 'The Devil Inside.' Characters are not properly fleshed out or examined, and feel like they're there out of purpose rather than anything else. The progression is overly convenient, the escalation somewhat boorish, the paths taken readily predictable. Actors don't make the characters any more likable with their frequent overacting, and there are moments where the film makes absolutely no sense; take, for example, the first interview with Maria, where there's the hospital security camera, a lens behind Isabella, and then the cameraman's tape. The cameraman is regularly moving about, zooming in and out, basically doing his job against two static shots. Yet, in the security cam, he's nowhere to be found, despite the fact that nearly the entire room is perfectly visible. It's almost enough to stop the movie right there and then, because the dude is either a vampire or there was no attempt to use this funny little tool called continuity.
'The Devil Inside' isn't even half as possessed as some of my Playstation Network gaming friends; it's certainly more tame and refrained. The film also has the designation of having one of the worst endings in all of cinema, so much so that it's past being insulting. While the movie runs short and ends abruptly, that much could be forgiven. What can't be ignored, though, is the fact that the screens that immediately follow, before the credits, plead for the audience to visit a fucking website related to the film to find out the truth behind some of the events. Here's the thing: if your movie pisses off the audience, chances are when it's finally over, they aren't going to want to visit a stupid damn site to find out more behind this fictional story being paraded around like truth. Passing cinema for reality worked for 'Blair Witch,' but times have changed since then. If you want to see exorcisms featuring bleeding vaginas, a contortionist extra, and characters who scream more than your least favorite in-law, then by all means rent or buy this film. However, if you're the kind of movie viewer who prefers movies to make sense, have interesting characters and a plot that envelopes you, be thankful that this disc is currently only available at one retailer, making it that much less tempting.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'The Devil Inside' comes to Blu-ray on a BD25 disc that features no pre-menu content. Then again, it hardly even features a menu, as a silent static shot, with no extras tab, is all we get on this Best Buy exclusive release. There are no packaging frills like a lenticular cover, unlike other recent exclusives to the retailer.
Found footage ahoy!
This particular genre has not exactly been high def eye candy on Blu-ray. Far from it. With the shaky, woozy, constantly moving camera, the intentional or added in degraded video effects, varying cameras creating quality disparity, and the typical ten second shot of a camera swirling against the ground as some douche bag runs for safety, we've seen some pretty mediocre (at best) discs in the past. 'The Devil Inside' doesn't change any of this. The 1.78:1 framed (with 1.33:1 footage), 1080p encode is loaded with the cliched trappings that we all may just have to get used to for years to come. This time, though, there's an added bonus: edge enhancement! Yes! Yes! Yes!
The opening "vintage" footage is distorted to hell, with loads of wear, chroma fringe, jumps, drop outs, noise, and black levels that are better defined as gray, but it's hard to count said footage against the disc. When the movie hits 2009, though, it's fair to raise concerns, regardless of intent. Blacks are improved, but have some real crushing issues. Edges start out nicely, and degrade as the picture rolls on, to the point that it's hard to miss some of the halos. Picture depth is solid, and the film sports nice, believable colors considering the filming style, and textures are the disc's foremost strength, with any standout shot being the way an object looks like you could touch it and feel its grit. That said, there's random intentional degradation that makes little sense, some aliasing concerns, sparse artifacting, and plenty of times when the accurate skin tones take a heavy tint. The varying cameras create varying picture quality, and it's noticeable when hair is sometimes sharp and defined, sometimes a bit...less so. I can't in good faith say this is a great looking disc, even if it fits the intent of the film. Intentional artifacts and aliasing, I'm sorry, I can't look past them. Hard to see moments in a film where we're to believe the scene's lighting is all there is, that's forgivable.
The audio on 'The Devil Inside' has a few moments that make it hard to believe we're supposedly watching a "found footage" feature, and while the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track has almost nothing emerging from rear channels to surround us, the few blatantly obvious localized effects (let's just say the effect is only used for jump scares...) standing out as unbelievable considering the genre. The audio has natural distortion, with lots of whirs and static, and it fits the type of film nicely, without really hurting the discernability of any sequence. Dialogue reproduction feels exactly as it should for a film that's supposed to be recording "real events," with some dialogue volume wavering due to positions and movements of characters. There are a few very high pitch shrieks that embody a demonic "howl" in the feature that don't quite pierce but still can make a listener do a double take, and while bass levels never spike to the point that they're powerful or ominous, the volume spikes for the cheap and dirty scare tactics this film employs make up for it.
There's nothing here. No trailer, no features, not even another stupid website tease. Barren.
'The Devil Inside' isn't quite enough to kill the "found footage" sub-genre, but it's definitely the worst feature to use this filming method. This is a horror flick without scares. It's all build-up, but no tension, with tons of predictability along the way. If you're surprised by what happens in this film, then, I'm sorry, you just need to watch more horror films and pay closer damn attention while doing so. The reason this film wasn't screened for theatrical critics is the same reason it can only be found at one store nationwide. Take that as a hint. With an exorbitant price point for what you get, 'The Devil Inside' is definitely one to avoid.