Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Devil Inside Versus the Cameraman: A Movie Review

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Director: William Brent Bell.

Writers: William Brent Bell, Matthew Peterman.

Cast: Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman and Evan Helmuth.

Despite what the advertising claims, The Devil Inside looks more at the various causes of malevolent behavior than the attempts to treat the symptoms. When science says possession is a product of the mind, maybe all there is to cause a person to be possessed is a switch than a demonic spirit.

Although most of the cinematography is buried by the use of the shaky-cam format, there are small parts of this movie to like. With the film offering very close-up shots of the eye as part of the visual tale, the video editor is imbuing this film with symbolism. If the eye is truly the window to the soul, as some holy texts lead readers to believe, this film certainly has plenty of those framed shots. By examining how the eye reacts, one can easily recognize who is in control of the possessed during an exorcism.

The well-intentioned plot about Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade) wanting to solve the mystery of why her mother, Maria (Suzan Crowley), was taken to Italy’s Cintrino Psychiatric Hospital is a good framework for events to come. Isabella is worried that she may have the same dormant dissociative disorder and wants some answers. She is also wondering what exorcism is all about. Although the Vatican is not “endorsing” the making of this documentary, everyone already knows what they are watching is fiction.

Conspiracy theories can make for some good story telling, and that is not where this film is headed. If Dan Brown wrote a treatment of a possession scenario, the devil inside will most likely be about the hypocrisy that exists within the Church by denying the theories of the devil's influence is everywhere.

After giving some education about demons and exorcisms, the story starts to move away from Isabella and includes some detail about the life of two priests, Ben (Simon Quarterman) and David (Evan Helmuth). They think their vigilante approach to saving souls is done in good faith. But as far as the Church is concerned, what they do not know is okay.

The Devil can use this information against them, and with no surprise, it does. The rest of the film occurs in a very predictable order, and that lessens the impact of this movie. That also includes some cheap scares inserted along the way. Even the infamous The Blair Witch Project style extreme close-up shot gets used some more and at least it remains effective. The technique is to show how personal the story is getting.

Isabella records on camera her disdain about her cameraman, Michael (Ionut Grama). He is by no means the archangel of the same name. His agenda is to chronicle everything that has been set in motion, and where it goes is not necessarily a train wreck of a product. It’s an unfinished one that gets continued online. The concept is unique, but how many people will want to learn more? Most viewers want a complete product. But with a movie that is made from found-footage, chances for a climax are not going to happen.

The material currently available on therossifiles.com is not anything that will wrap up the story. They just fill in some holes about Isabella’s young life than to provide answers. The content is not a police report, but instead, an archive of old films and plenty of space for audience participation. The people who have visited the site are required to put the pieces together themselves. It instills a false sense of authenticity. But with a MPAA rating on the bottom of the webpage, hopefully everyone is in on the joke.

While this movie tries to get audiences to look at what causes an individual to snap, spiritual or not, the only broken branch here is that this film is not reaffirming mankind’s relation to God. He’s forsaken humanity and that at least makes for some good scares.

Overall: 5 out of 10.

*interestingly enough, Deadline has reported that William Brent Bell is to direct The Vatican, a conspiracy-style thriller. This product will be fast-tracked for release presumedly for next year. David Cohen (No One Lives, Subject Zero) will be providing the script.

The Vatican at Deadline:

The Vatican Details

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