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John’s Horror Corner: The Devil Inside (2012)

March 7, 2013

MY CALL:  So much promise and a great first act were squandered away by lousy possession scenes.  This went from “could be great” to “good Lord” around the halfway mark; a 4 star opening and a 0 star finish.  What a shame.  [C/C-]  IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH:  The docu-style and semi-satirical nature should point viewers to Grave Encounters (2011) and The Last Exorcism (2010).

This film is presented as a documentary following the main character Isabella (Fernanda Andrade).  This tactic has been adopted by Grave Encounters and The Last Exorcism, though neither included testimonials or expert opinions of individuals that weren’t involved in the story.

Twenty years ago this Isabella’s mother brutally murdered some of her congregation members during a church group exorcism (her own exorcism).
One of Isabella’s mother’s church group.

After being found innocent (insanity plea) she is sent away to a very special facility specializing in exorcisms in Italy operated by the Vatican.  Just like a show on the History Channel we hear Isabella’s testimonials and experiences as well as those of medical professionals and priests on the topic of mental illness and/or demonic possession.
Let’s see if we can’t zap the crazy out of her…

The Vatican denies all involvement in exorcism but evidently has a graduate school program dedicated to the age-old practice just like in The Rite.  Exorcism stock footage is observed and followed by open forum diagnosis of the “patient.”  The priestly “students” are just like uber-academics; they think they know everything, they’re irritatingly argumentative and they’re suspiciously passionate about their work.

Being an attractive young girl with a life Isabella responds to them appropriately: like they’re a bunch of good-intentioned, awkward geeks.  They give her some useful input, though, on coming to one’s own terms with that which is mental illness and that which is possession.  How will I know, she asked.  Annnnnnd, cue the cliché:  “You’ll know it when you see it.”

Isabella visits her mother’s special facility and the doctor denies the possibility of possession in lieu of abnormal mental function.  When visiting hours come, she is warned to make no mention of God, religion, fate or the like, as these things elicit violent outbursts.  Mom is quite sedated, wearing vacant expressions that randomly trade out for discomforting tones, a healthy compliment of different voices (as if harboring multiple personalities) and self-destructive commentary.  I was just waiting for her to do something messed up at any moment.

Back with the young exorcists they analyze the footage of her visit, during which Isabella’s mother seemed to know something she couldn’t possibly have known.  We also learn that these rogue exorcists are performing exorcisms without the church’s support.  To help her mother she must learn about exorcisms, not in a class but in person.  Possession scenes are complete with painful contortions, blood in all the wrong places and threats in multiple languages.
Victims of demonic possession are always so flexible.

I feel like this film started out with so much promise.  I liked the semi-satirical documentary approach.  I liked that we got to know the characters through their own narrative via video log entries as much as by their actions.  I really thought I was finally in for a good possession movie.  Lord knows, it’s been a while.  But almost as soon as the possession scenes begin the film slowly falls apart until “the ending that wasn’t there.”

I don’t recommend this movie and to be specific as to why would spoil the film for those who wouldn’t heed my warning anyway.

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