I thought exorcism movies are so passé. In the past 2 decades or so, a ton of filmmakers have kindled the interests of horror junkies like me in demonism, possession and the like. Like any other type of horror films, delivering a straight up freakish overall ambience of a real demonic intrusion and being able to sustain it until the end without boring the audience is tricky. Some of them are able to deliver, some aren’t. The thing about these movies is that they’ve been around for a long time, they’ve become so predictable. Filmmakers who would like to scare the crap out of people through another exorcism movie should take it to a different level. Sometimes, simple is different and interesting in many ways and that makes it unpredictable. Less is more and it’s true in this exorcism movie I saw a week ago, The Devil Inside.
The filmmakers made use of a simpler approach to an old idea:
- The story had to be told via a documentary. The shots were simple but they for sure were well thought of. Sometimes for something to look simple and natural, you have to pour a lot of artistic juices to it. Many films went to this direction but some were not very successful doing it. Some of them looked posed or they tended to be boring. In this film, the filmmakers thought of ways on how the camera would capture the scenes without making it seemed planned. It’s been established on the early parts of the film that the car they used to go around Rome had cameras so at the final scene, when the demon possessed Isabella and Mike and drove them to death, the scare was perfectly captured. One flaw I saw though was that scene when Isabella first met her mom, Maria, after she was sent to Rome. All through out the movie, most of the characters acted conscious of the camera/s being around, which was how normal people would. On this scene, Maria show no regard for the camera, or at least the man (Mike) who was behind it. It’s a bit unnatural that all Maria noticed was Isabella.
- Although the film was shot as a documentary, it did not come across as boring and sluggish as they included only the scenes that were substantial to the story. Other documentary-type films had scenes that show no much action but they were there for the purpose of making their audience feel the boredom of real life interactions. It doesn’t work for most people like me. If you’re posing it as a documentary, just like a real one, you would have to choose the parts that are best contributing to the story without making your audience sleep. It bore no special effects save for the changing demon voices and it worked perfectly. The final scene could leave your jaw hanging and your mind thinking of how terribly the characters’ fate had turned out to be in the hands of the demon. We could attribute it to the fact that the final scene was a short one and the editing was abrupt and aggressive and giving no time for audience to think of would go on but after the film itself.
- Now, what is an exorcism movie without a great contortionist. We just love seeing women do shapes with their bodies that make us cringe. One thing I noticed though that people possessed by demons on these exorcism movies had to be skinny. I haven’t really seen real-size people possessed and being able to contort. On this film, you’d see that only Isabella and Rosalita, fairly skinny, did those weird shapes with their body and not Maria and David (the priest) who were real-size but were equally horrifically possessed.
- The battle between the belief in supernatural and science carried on in this film. Science claiming everything that happened had a logical and scientific explanation and the church believing that some can only be explained by faith. Science told us that possession is impossible and those who were said to be possessed were having some sort of a dysfunction in the brain, but they would not succumb to the fact that people, for example, inexplicably float and could be wildly thrown somewhere during an actual exorcism. Despite the conflict between two ideas, the two priests, David and Ben, used science to aid them during exorcism. They had medical tools to monitor their subject’s heart rate, blood pressure, their changing pupils, they had muscle relaxant and other sorts of sedative. “Possessed” people shows intense physical disturbances; whether or not it’s caused by demons or nature remained the question, but the priests did not discount the fact that science could have a role during an activity not supported by it.
- It’s been customary to exorcism movies to show possessed people do disturbing things. On this film, you’d see a good amount of cringing stuff: Maria cutting inverted crosses on herself, the infamous devilish contortions, Rosalita’s bleeding while being exorcised, Ben drowning a kid during a baptism he’s conducting and shooting himself in the mouth, demons thrash-mouthing everyone on the room in 3-4 tones of voices, and others.
- The characters’ motivation were things real people in such ordeals can identify with. Isabella was torn between what to believe; she’s being led to believe her mom, who killed three people during an exorcism being conducted on her, was psychologically deranged, while taking the idea that her mom could be a home for a tormenting demon. She’s in desperate need of help to find out how she could bring her mom back to the normal world when two priests extended the attention she needed, both with motivations of their own. The two wanted to prove to the Church the whole world that demonic possession is real and something science could not resolve and exorcism should be legally conducted by people like them who were fully capable of it, to help those science claimed they could cure but couldn’t. When Isabelle and the two priests were making a lot of progress, they were seized by ugly things they might have done in the past, brought about by the demon through the possessed. Towards the end, their weakness was used by the demon to its advantage of taking over them.
Everyone loves a good scare and I think The Devil Inside was able to provide it. Overall, I’d say the filmmakers made good use of basic ideas and approaches to deliver a decent exorcism movie, something that could interest that twisted junkie inside you and make you ask for more. Some people are not used to this simplistic style mainly because in the world of mainstream media, we’re used to being spoon-fed of every idea up until the end and none was left to our imagination.
- Trailer Tracker: The Devil Inside (arts.nationalpost.com)
- When all hell breaks loose, The Devil Inside is a heck of a lot of fun to watch (theglobeandmail.com)
- 25 Things You Didn’t Know About Exorcism Movies (moviefone.com)
- Movie Review: The Devil Inside, the Scariest (and Only) Mockumentary Horror Flick You’ll See This Week (eonline.com)
- ‘The Devil Inside’ Clip: A Look Inside the School of Exorcism (VIDEO) (moviefone.com)