The Devil Inside – Zero Buckets
When I write a review, my policy is to never reveal anything that takes place after the second act – a basic courtesy to ensure that the ending isn’t spoiled for the prospective viewer. (If there is a particularly shocking twist before that point, I will usually avoid mentioning it, as well.) The Devil Inside is a peculiar test of this rule, however, because it doesn’t have a third act, period.
Yes, you read that right – The Devil Inside ends abruptly at what would normally be considered the end of a second act. I’m all for challenging the traditional dramatic structure and pushing for new modes of storytelling, but needless to say, that’s not what they are going for here. In case you don’t want to have the final scene—I hesitate to call it the “ending”—spoiled for you, stop reading now.
I hope you’re all still here, because to buy a ticket to The Devil Inside is to be scammed out of $10, for it hardly counts as a full movie. What happens is this: one hour and 15 minutes in, during a relatively action-packed sequence, filmmaker William Brent Bell cuts to text over black, which informs the viewer to go to a website to find out more. Then the credits roll. The website (www.theRossiFiles.com) doesn’t contain an ending, either.
With most films, no one at the studio would think this to be an acceptable creative decision. But under the rouse of the quasi-documentary “found footage” style, which has been played to death in the horror genre with films like Paranormal Activity and Quarantine, they somehow found it an acceptable substitute for an actual conclusion. “That’s all the footage we found – nobody knows the rest,” is what Bell effectively tells the viewer. The irony, of course, is that even if this were a real documentary, we’d expect Bell to wrap things up more thoroughly – at least postulate what could have happened.
Leaving the screening, I formulated potential explanations for why The Devil Inside would end so cheaply. Not even co-writer/director Bell could have thought this was a good ending. I figured that he must have been a film student who was assigned the script for a class and procrastinated until the night before it was due, ultimately running out of time and settling on this makeshift solution. A quick Google search refuted that hypothesis, so I’m still left to speculate on what exactly was going on inside Bell’s head.
Is there any reason I should talk about the first hour and 15 minutes, in light of the fact that the end renders this portion of The Devil Inside useless? Probably not, but just in case: It’s a cookie-cutter take on the found footage genre. TV actress Fernanda Andrade makes her theatrical debut as Isabella Rossi, a woman investigating whether her asylum-committed mother, who murdered three people when they attempted to exorcize her 20 years earlier, could actually be possessed. Seen similar stories before? Yeah, I thought so.
The two exorcism scenes in the film are competently constructed – enough to elicit a few expressions of disgust from squeamish viewers (does the sight of twisted limbs ever tire?). But the writing and the acting are utterly pedestrian – hardly good enough to make viewers momentarily trick themselves into believing that what’s onscreen actually happened.
Alas, I return to my earlier point: That Bell and Paramount would have the gall to believe they could get away with releasing two-thirds of a film—and a mediocre two-thirds, at that—is an insult to moviegoers. Thanks to a clever marketing campaign, they succeeded in a $33 million robbery this past weekend, but word-of-mouth should thankfully bar the possibility of many more tickets being sold to this turkey.
* * *
The Devil Inside (2012, USA). Produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Katie Mustard, Morris Paulson, Matthew Peterman, and Steven Schneider. Directed by William Brent Bell. Written for the screen by William Brent Bell and Matthew Peterman. Starring Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman, Evan Helmuth, Ionut Grama, Suzan Crowley, Bonnie Morgan, and Brian Johnson. Distributed by Paramount Insurge. Rated R, with a running time of 83 minutes.