Sunday, 9 October 2016

THE LEIGH SPENCE MOMENT: THE DEVIL INSIDE



8. “Itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout.”
09/10/2016

I probably should have waited until after watching “The Devil Inside” to find out more about it because, having now watched it, I have a distinct feeling of it being a horror equivalent of The Emperor’s New Clothes.
The film’s set-up is easy enough to describe. It is a “mockumentary,” but not a “found footage” film, in which a woman wishes to find out if her mother is possessed, twenty years after the mother killed two priests and a nun during an exorcism. The questions lead to Vatican City, and the Vatican school of exorcism, which is recruiting.
The film was written as a “mockumentary” because the writers found making it a traditional story was unsatisfying. However, while this appealed to Paramount Pictures, who set up a low-budget label, Insurge Pictures, after its successful release of “Paranormal Activity,” these films had acquired a reputation for being excuses for poor camerawork, sound and so on – “The Devil Inside” could only add to this perception.
The story has a good idea at its centre, exploring whether mental illness or actual demonic possession are the symptoms that need exorcising, and the two priests that perform an exorcism on the mother are seen using medical equipment to prove what is happening, leading one of them to feel they could be excommunicated for presenting their evidence to the Holy See.
However, the documentary-style approach does not make the story authentic. There is much talking about ideas, followed by exorcism set-piece, or the lights going out. “The Exorcist,” in being more about a mother’s fear for her daughter, provides a greater narrative drive - the final exorcism of Regan works better there because we had been given reason to hope, by that point, that it would work. In “The Devil Inside,” exorcism is only used to prove a point, which is not enough for those wanting a jump scare at the cinema on a Friday night.
What I was a bit surprised about was the lack of an ending. After one priest kills himself, the daughter has a seizure, and is taken to hospital by the other priest, but then taken away again, as it would be unsafe. Judging by the jostling in the back seats, the daughter could be possessed, but then the driver speeds up, crashes the car… and that’s it. Two title cards advise that the case surrounding the mother remains unsolved, and you can visit a website for more information.
There was enough hate mail to the director regarding this ending for plans for a sequel to be cancelled. Having no press screenings meant the disappointment would be waiting for the audience later.
“The Devil Inside” was at the top of the US box office after its first week, before crashing out of the top ten two weeks later. This proved the advertising must have worked to begin with, despite using the image of a nun who is walked past in one scene without any further reference – after noticing this myself, it felt like she should have had more of a role… like popping up at the end, to give us an ending.

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