Tired of found footage? Tired of exorcisms? I’ve got just the movie for you.
Y'all know I love horror, especially of the found footage variety. I’m an apologist to my core, and even though roughly 99% of found footage movies are trash, I will continue to give them the benefit of the doubt and dive into every new release head first like Scrooge McDuck.
I will never learn from my mistakes, I will never watch better movies, I will never log off.
Recently I dug into a horror film that was heavily marketed, opened at number 1, made an insane amount of money on opening weekend, and then all but disappeared from both theaters and public consciousness before the month was over. But enough about Avatar. The Devil Inside should be another one of the infinite found footage movies that were spawned by Paranormal Activity's crazy success that fell to the wayside. It should have come and gone and been lost to history alongside The Possession of Michael King, Devil's Due, and The Fourth Kind. What sets The Devil Inside apart from these is an ending so remarkable, so momentous, so singularly shitty, it must be preserved for all time.
But for every ending, there must be a beginning.
|I have a hunch that the Vatican has no knowledge of this movie's existence whatsoever.|
In October 1989, an exorcism was performed on Maria Rossi. Contrary to what you might expect, she did not take kindly to being doused in Holy Water, spit on by priests, and being on the business end of the whole “The power of Christ compels you” spiel. She made her feelings on this matter known by murdering the 2 priests and nun, then called the police and confessed. This case was what lawyers at the time deemed “a bit of a pickle,” but luckily the Catholic Church intervened. In the triple homicide I mean, NOT the production of this movie. They decided the best way to get this woman the help she desperately needed would be to send her to Centrino Mental Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
Yes, the Church stepped in and said “nah guys, we got this” and deported her to another continent to rot in a padded room and everyone seemed pretty cool with it. Good thing too, because if there’s one thing I trust organized religion with, it’s diagnosing and treating mental disorders. Don’t believe me? Just ask my good friend Lisa McPherson.
|Two priests and a nun walk into a bar. They get shot in the fuckin face.|
Maria’s daughter Isabella lives most of her life not knowing much about what really happened, save for the fact that Mommy had an accident and then quickly moved to an Italian farm where she has plenty of room to run around. At the ripe age of 25, her dad blurts out “DAAAAAAH YOUR MOM WAS GETTING EXORCISED AND QUICKSCOPED ALL OF THEM SQUARE IN THE DOME” and then died three days later. He is never mentioned again.
A couple of months after this revelation, she takes it upon herself to hunt for the truth. What really happened that night, and why did nobody object to her mother being locked away in a Vatican loony bin? Seeing as this movie takes place in 2012 and there are supernatural mysteries afoot, there is but one way to find the closure she craves from this paranormal predicament: she recruits a filmmaker to create a documentary. From roughly 2007-2013, there was no spooky story that couldn’t be told with a handicam, a microscopic budget, and some elbow grease. Pictures falling off the wall? Found footage. Doors slamming shut? Found footage. Teenage white girl convulsing, contorting and yelling swears at her put upon family? You guessed it: Found footage.
|Editor's Note: If the Catholic Church ever ships me off to a Roman asylum, please don't send this guy to rescue me.|
Isabella and Cameraman travel to Rome and waste no time taking in the usual sights. The Coliseum, the Pantheon, an exorcism class being taught at the Vatican. The Devil Inside and its brief runtime get right to it, taking us from an exposition dump straight to a bunch of priests sitting in a classroom, watching footage of an exorcism and getting into heated debates on whether or not it’s real or just same crazy broad whose cycle is in sync with the Moon. I know what you’re thinking right now. “But Parker, an exploration into whether or not possession is real or just a manifestation of a mental disorder sounds like it could make an interesting movie.” Yeah, it probably could.
So Isabella meets two Rogue Priests with shadowy pasts and nothing left to lose who do exorcisms without the church’s consent. Much like this film, they act without sanctioning from the Vatican. They don’t give a fuck about nothin. So far so good - Bella is having a fantastic Summer getaway. Living, laughing, learning, making new friends, all that's left to do is grab some gelato and swing by the nitwit school her mom has been Shanghaid in for two decades.
The reunion we’ve all been waiting a whopping 17 minutes for goes pretty well. Mom speaks in different accents, screams a lot, shows off the inverted crosses carved into her arms and bottom lip. Just a couple of Gal Pals making up for lost time, having a regular vacation. There’s nothing quite like jet-setting to an exotic city where mommy can tell you your abortion was against God’s will. After flying across the globe, Isabella has a five minute conversation with her mom and gets no answers of any kind. I know it seems anticlimactic but you can't give up the ghost in the first act, especially not in a ghost movie. Don't worry, this is all gonna pay off in the end.
So that was weird, right? No biggie, there’s no need to let a Loony Lucy ruin a once-in-a-lifetime vacay. Isabella, Cameraman, and the Rogue Priests reconvene and have a little chit chat about their experience, and then after a bit of meandering small talk they look at their watches and realize there hasn’t been an exorcism for a couple of minutes. Round up the gang and give us a break from exposition.
One of the funniest parts of the movie is when they arrive at the house and they're greeted by the mother who tells them that they had to move her to the basement. Why? Doesn't matter. They follow her downstairs and end up in the most absurdly haunted basement they could find.
|DEAD BY DAWN DEAD BY DAWN|
You ever see an exorcism movie before? Yeah, well how about an unsanctioned exorcism movie? It’s got a ton of stuff you’ve never seen before, such as a girl wearing all white contorting and speaking in a weird demon voice and then swearing a lot. They really outdid themselves here. The ingenuity is staggering. I can’t even imagine having the foresight do something so shocking. Particularly not 40 years ago.
They finish their morally ambiguous exorcism and go back to talking about - you guessed it - exorcisms. Whenever exorcisms aren't on screen, the audience should be asking "where are the exorcisms?" Rogue Priest David is worried about losing is job, because all in all it’s a pretty sweet gig outside of the “never boning down” part. You see, the Church does not authorize exorcisms without undeniable proof that the patient is possessed. What’s that, you ask? Isn’t that type of thing literally impossible to prove without doing an exorcism? Well first of all, through God all things are possible, so jot that down. Second of all, you’ve had a lot of great questions today, but we have to keep pushing forward. Everything will be answered at the end.
Isabella, Cameraman, and the other Rogue Priest talk poor David into casting away all of his doubts and effectively seal his fate. Then the damndest thing happens: there’s an exorcism scene that’s TOO HOT FOR THE VATICAN. They try to exorcise the demon out of Isabella's mom, but the demon gets transferred to Isabella and Rogue Priest David. Nothing says “summer vacation” quite like some dumb American kid flying to a country she doesn’t understand and convincing a priest to unwillingly have his body inhabited by Lucifer’s minion. He should have never listened to her and stayed loyal to his volcel pledge to the Lord. After all, the Good Book states that the NEET shall inherit the Earth.
Hospital workers hear the commotion and break up the entire exorcism and we abruptly cut to another scene. Is the Mom free of the demons that have been controlling her for decades? What will become of her? Does she know what she did? Does she know she’s been in prison? How does the demon inhabit two bodies at once? I can't stress enough that you need to quit interrupting; everything will be carefully addressed at the film's conclusion. Thank you for your understanding.
The Gang pours over the data from the exorcism (don’t ask) and present their findings to the Church. Everything is going great. Everyone is having a wonderful and regular time, much as I do after a routine exorcism with my normal rogue friends. Isabella finally has some closure, Cameraman has a documentary he can submit to whatever bullshit film school he’s attending, and David performs a baptism at his church and tries to drown the baby in Holy Water. You know how it goes. You and a small group of friends have a STAND BY ME Summer adventure and then go your separate ways and you return to regular life where you hold a baby underwater until the crowd bum rushes you and you pass out.
|Why did the cameraman go to a routine baptism?|
Do they stop him in time? Is the baby dead? Can a demon possess multiple people at once? You'll never know.
Later that night, Rogue Priest Ben finds Rogue Priest David at home You might be asking yourself how exactly David was allowed to return home after trying to murder an infant in front of a room full of people. I can not thank you enough for your enthusiasm but have to insist you hold all questions until the end, everything will be clear then.
Ben is like "hey man, I heard today was pretty fucked up. Are you cool?" He notices David's arms are covered in blood and Ben doubles down, demanding to know if he is in fact cool. He calls the police and these bumbling, stumbling Keystone Cops are in the house for all of thirty seconds before David takes an officer’s gun and puts it in his mouth. He weeps and recites the Lord’s Prayer, but forgets the last few words and blows his brains out. Isabella responds to his hubbub by having a seizure. I know, I forgot she was in the movie, too.
Rogue Priest Ben doesn’t have time to mourn, because the main character of the movie is possessed. Ben and Cameraman toss her in the car and head…somewhere. Buckle up back there, we’re goin to Hell tonight. I don’t know where they were planning on taking her, but I can’t imagine they have a deep bench of people who can perform unsanctioned exorcisms. Cameraman takes the wheel while Rogue Priest Ben sits in back with Isabella. She talks mad shit to Ben about some vague horrible act he committed that’s never elaborated on. Once he’s incapacitated due to hurt feelings, she tries to strangle Cameraman.
It's almost time, folks. Your patience will be rewarded.
She breathes into Cameraman’s mouth and his demeanor changes.
Oh shit y'all, here it comes.
He looks forward with a thousand yard stare, the same one David had at the baptism. He calmly unbuckles his seatbelt and puts the pedal to the metal.
Holy fuck, it's happening.
The car speeds into oncoming traffic and collides, spinning out wildly.
Ben and the cameraman’s corpses can be seen in the wreckage of the overturned car.
I'm white knuckling my chair. Here. We. Go.
Isabella's corpse is nowhere to be found.
This is it. My butthole is tighter than it's ever been. I'm forgetting to breathe. Isabella is possessed by the same demon that took control of her mother all of those years ago, and anyone who could have stopped her is lying dead in a wrecked car. We’re an hour and fifteen minutes into the movie. It's time. It's time for the finale you and I have been waiting for. It's time for this demon's rampage and an insight into why sh-
HOLY FUCKING DOGSHIT
I have never in my life been more disrespected by a movie. Seventy Five Fucking Minutes of stumbling and bumbling through exorcisms and exposition, and then they drive into traffic and tell you to go online and find out what happened. It has the nerve to tell you that it didn’t bother resolving itself. “Hey isn’t that fuckin crazy? It takes all kinds, huh? Here, check out one of those Youtubes” and then pads out the runtime with 8 minutes of the slowest credits I’ve ever seen in my life. I use hyperbole a lot on here, but take a gander at this.
That's not your computer lagging. Stare in awe at the cinematic equivalent of fudging the margins on a term paper and changing all of the periods to be size 18 font. The sheer balls of it. If I wasn’t so mad I’d be applauding it. I’ve never seen a more cynical ending to anything in my life. The sheer audacity to charge you full ticket price to watch a 75 minute movie shot on a Go Pro that ends with a URL. It has the nerve to dangle it in your face because there’s nothing you can do about it. You bought the ticket, you sat through the entire thing. You don’t get an ending and you never will. No resolution, no refunds.
And guess what?
They won. There’s nothing we can do. They got exactly what they wanted. They cashed in on that Paranormal Activity craze and laughed all the way to the bank. They took a script that was 70 pages and then a 71st page that said [Write Ending Here], filmed it in a week, dropped it in January, made 100 times their budget, and then told you to figure out what happened for yourself. They had nothing and they knew it. Case in point: the marketing. Here's the theatrical poster
Pretty effective. Clean and dirty. Simple. If you're scrolling through Amazon, Hulu, or happen to pass by a DVD - this is the cover you'll see.
Did you notice how not once in this post was there ever a mention of a spooky nun? The face of this movie - the image that's supposed to draw you in and pique your interest - is a shot that's in the movie for 2 seconds (at most) as Isabella is walking down the street. Isabella does not notice nor acknowledge her and during the scene she's giving a voice over about something completely unrelated. Even the fucking box art is a trick. Not since the heyday of direct to VHS horror have I seen a movie so brazen about lying to your face to cheat you out of your time and money.
It's poorly filmed, devoid of scares, lacks any suspense, is barely over an hour long, and ends with the director stepping in front of the camera and saying "thanks for your money you dumb fuckin slob." Tons of found footage movies end with someone screaming and dropping the camera and you don't see what happens. The Blair Witch Project is one of my all time favorite movies and that's how it ends almost word for word.
It's the brazenness to go the extra mile and tell you that this story was never solved. Go figure it out for yourself, piggie. Here’s a trail of bread crumbs. Push your snout into the cracks in the floorboards and root around until you find a fucking ending.
The movie itself is pretty standard and Totally Fine for a lot of the runtime, but there's no way to give it a fair shake at the end because it's such a powerful kick in the dick that any good will is thrown out the window. It certainly doesn't help the movie's case that every single exorcism movie is a worse version of The Exorcist, but the decision to give you homework in lieu of a third act is jaw dropping. Some might say it broke new ground by giving you the opportunity to choose your own ending, but I personally chose to scare my dog by yelling at the TV. To each their own.
At the end of the day, no matter what I've said above, I can't lie. I have to be honest with you. As much as I'd love to purge this movie from my memory and relegate it to the purgatory of found footage movies I've seen and forgotten, there's something drawing me in. This is the angriest a movie has made me in as far back as I can remember, but I can't let it go. I will not have peace of mind until I know for sure. I have to do it. I have to go to the website. I have to investigate the Rossi family. I have to solve the murders. I have to know where she goes next. I have to get some sort of closure or I'm going to swallow my own tongue. I shouldn't let this movie have a single slice of real estate in my mind, but I will not let it win. I will click every god damned link on this site and absorb every piece of lore on there. Do you know why? Because they don't think I will. They thought they'd pulled a fast one on me, but I won't be made a fool of. I'm going to get the last laugh. I'm going to set up my room like Rust Cohle's storage locker and solve the mystery. What is the mystery? I have no idea, but I'm going to resolve the shit out of this case.
Here we go.
I'm going to drive into oncoming traffic.