The Devil Inside inside is a triumph… of marketing. Shot for a cool million and busting the box office to the tune of $53 million domestically, people were clearly convinced of something special. All those shots of contortionists in weird positions and the phony haze of realism have a powerful pull.
Here’s the scariest thing about Devil Inside. Isabella (Fernanda Andrade) travels to Rome to visit her potentially possessed mother. Beforehand, she walks into a class on exorcisms, and wouldn’t you know it? On all the days, on all the times, she just happens to step in right as the speaker is foreshadowing her own events. Way to handle exposition and destroy what limited credibility you were already playing with movie.
“Found footage” films, adored by the studios for their low cost and almost instantaneous profits -much like TV industry’s infatuation with reality shows- don’t require much. Actors placed in front of the camera are not needed to establish a character so much as they are needed to simply be natural. Devil Inside isn’t afforded such.
Much of its build-up is done with random walking scenes, characters peeking around the city sort of like a music video that’s missing the music. The camera shakes and shimmies as if it’s “real,” adding nothing to the slim, already preposterous narrative. At 75-minutes, that cutting out the lurching end credits sequence, Devil Inside shouldn’t have that much time to play with.
The film is a scattered series of fragments, where ideas are crushed under a pre-determined need for more exorcisms. They sell the film easier in the trailer, after all. Past deeds, including an abortion for Isabella and a family shake-up for one of the young priests connect with the impact of a feather, and fall from the script like a 10-ton counterweight.
As the film lights up, viewers are reminded that the Vatican did not endorse the film’s creation or release. Why would they? The film incites legitimacy questions before a frame of video has been shown. One can imagine an alternate universe where the Vatican does support the release thinking the sight of people bending bones and rectal bleeding will push people into their congregations.
“Church: It’s where you go to prevent butt blood!”
Devil Inside is worthless on Blu-ray, and that’s said with the full awareness of self-preservation regarding physical media. Most people will understand why the movie opens on 4×3 frame laced with poorly duplicated VHS-era artifacts. Those that don’t will be further dumfounded why the image is so murky, blurry, and “grainy.”
Very little here looks passable. It’s some unwritten rule in Hollywood that mysterious events remain clouded by shoddy looking footage for authenticity. If footage of bigfoot looks ugly, so do exorcisms, or so goes the logic. Most of the flick is made up of secondary cameras either placed around the room or personal diaries, taken in such darkness, it’s hard to tell what’s going on. The lack of light only serves to bring out the noise further.
Nothing in terms of the disc release lies at the feet of anyone at Paramount. The encode doesn’t seem to be adding anything that wasn’t already part of the source. There are no errant artifacts that stand out as a direct result of the compression, or any errant attempts to fix intentional flaws. There is little doubt that it’s a cut above the DVD edition too. The lack of MPEG-2 artifacts is certainly a bonus.
Still, it’s easy to recall Blair Witch. Initially released to VHS, it added an air of instability to a shaky, imprecise style. The eventual DVD release (and even later, Blu-ray) took away a lot of quality that made Blair With so convincing. In an era of cheap, high-grade digital photography, the standards are a bit higher, but the previous generation seems far better suited.
Like most of these sub-genre efforts, especially a Paranormal Activity, the audio mix exists to incite shock scares. A sudden jolt of LFE when a victim wakes up, or when said victim pulls a Jedi and force pushes a priest across the room; those are the moments where it shines. It’s not playing fair, but no one walks into a movie like this expecting it to.
Dialogue is especially tepid here, soft and at times unintelligible. Isabella’s first visit with her mother might as well be muted. Moments of panic will space the chatter out, filling the sparse rooms with an echo. Positionals can be used for the crazier moments, a third act possession leading to the upper floor of a house being trashed, all in the rears for effect.
Closing moments are the most vivid. With in-car cameras, a roll over accident cuts in and out, the shattering of glass and motion lighting up the speakers in a moment of effective mixing. It is certainly more effective than anything pumped out during the supposed horror scenes.
Nothing. Zip. Nada. Paramount doesn’t even include a trailer.