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The Independent Critic

Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman, Evan Helmut
William Brent Bell
William Brent Bell, Matthew Peterman
Rated R
87 Mins.
Paramount Pictures

 "The Devil Inside" Review 
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By the time you're reading this review, yet another low-budget horror film has captivated the box-office and planted the seeds for yet another godawful cheap yet profitable horror series.

The Devil Inside just happened to show up at the post-awards season rush box-office and on a weekend where virtually nothing else of any substance happened to be opening. The result? This $1 million film raked in over $30 million on its opening weekend despite being savaged by critics and virtually anyone who happened to see it.

In the film, Isabella (Fernanda Andrade) has traveled to Italy with a documentary filmmaker (Ionut Grama) to find out exactly what really happened with her mother (Suzan Crowley), now an institutionalized triple murderer after she massacred three church representatives attempting to perform an exorcism on her. Shortly after her arrival in Italy, Isabella hooks up with a couple of renegade priests who have more than a few issues with their beloved church, Ben (Simon Quarterman) and David (Evan Helmuth), who've taken to performing unauthorized exorcisms.

You do know where this is going, don't you?

Of course you do.

What starts out somewhat promisingly with an involving back story involving Isabella's mother and Isabella's own anxieties about her future quickly dissolves into nothing more than yet the latest faux documentary with shoddy hand-held camera work and far too much exposition involving Catholicism and how it handles the whole exorcism thing. After getting our attention and getting us to care about Maria, the mother, and Isabella, director William Brent Bell squanders it all and creates a film that is largely devoid of anything frightening or suspenseful.

Suzan Crowley, as Maria, is the film's highlight with a performance that completely transcends the material she's dealing with and actually keeps you watching every single time she's on the screen. Crowley gives us a glimpse of just how truly entertaining this film could have been had Bell chosen to go the route of spiritual/supernatural horror rather than turning the film into an exegesis of exorcism. The remainder of the cast is competent, as well, with both Simon Quarterman and Evan Helmuth also rising above the caricatures they were given.

The worst part of the film is its ending, an ending that certainly won't be revealed here but one that is such a let down that you almost can't believe that Bell and his co-screenwriter Matthew Peterman actually went there.

It's certainly understandable why Paramount has released the film. After all, what did they have to lose? With a $1 million production budget, releasing the film in a couple thousand theatres on the last weekend of the holiday break practically guaranteed at least the break-even point. The payoff for taking the risk ended up being even greater as the complete lack of cinema traffic this past weekend led to a major breakthrough for the film.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic