The Devil Inside begins with an unnecessarily expository sequence showing the gratuitous aftermath of the killing of three people. In a horrendously jarring faux documentary style, the camera lurches from body to body, before the killer, a possessed woman called Maria, leaps at the camera in what I roughly perceived to be a ‘jump’ moment. But to jump would suggest a build-up of tension, which in turns shows some technical skill, and this dreadful film has none of those things in any measure.
The rest of the film skips 20 years and follows Maria’s daughter Isabella (Fernanda Andrede, a charisma vacuum) as she tries to understand what exactly happened to her mother all those years ago. After a visit to her in a mental hospital that would be scary if it wasn’t so terribly edited, she seeks the help of two unauthorised exorcists who work outside the Church to exorcise those who they decide are possessed. After another exorcism that needn’t actually exist, they then get the mother in a room and try to purge the demon from her.
This becomes the mantra for the film, a series of unconnected, poorly shot sequences in which not a lot of comprehensible action happens. And then the film ends. The acting is terrible all round, the dialogue sounds like nothing a normal person would say, and in terms of the faux documentary style. Early on I was reminded of This Is Spinal Tap. Blair Witch this ain’t.
The whole thing is a nonsensical mess. I had great and fevered debate with the people I watched it with after it finished, because as we stumbled out of the cinema, we realised that actually there are no redeeming features to this film at all. Every aspect was terrible, from the sound editing down to the lighting.
One annoying thing this film is guilty of is hinting at events in the past that would actually give the film some coherency, and then never mentioning them again. For example, despite never fully learning what Simon Quarterman’s Father Rawlings actually did all those years ago that was so bad, absolutely everyone (demon included) seems to know and make him feel sporadically guilty for it. The same point is made of the idea of multiple demonic possession. It crops up a couple of times, and each time appears to be more important, but is dropped as quickly as it appears each time. It was these things that bugged me most of all. In a film that is telling a very simple story, with very basic characters, it was quite the feat that it managed to explain so little.
It was also one of the least scary things I have seen. This is being labelled as a horror film, and from the trailer you might be tricked into thinking it has a couple of effective jump scares in it. It couldn’t even muster that. The tone is so determinedly po-faced that it becomes impossible to take seriously. One protracted sequence sees a priest try to drown a baby at a baptism. On paper this sounds actually quite horrible. On screen, it’s hilarious. And this is the kind of film it is, ultimately: so complicit with its technical shortcomings that any integrity the film might have had at one point fails to manifest itself.
Finally, and most jarringly given its flagrance, it goes on for far too long (83 minutes). This is one of those rare cases of a film where it could probably have passed muster as a 30 minute short film. The entire second half feels tacked on, and the ending (if you can call it that) feels more like a point where the film ran out. It doesn’t even have the good graces to give it an openly ambiguous finale and leave it open for sequels. Although in retrospect, this was probably the only thing I liked about it.