"The Vatican does not endorse this film" states the pre-credits blurb for The Devil Inside. The scandal-ridden religious establishment is in desperate need of some good PR, and this risible attempt at a horror movie delivers it. If they did endorse or even remotely tolerate this desperate, stupid and tedious entry into the increasingly stale 'found footage' subgenre, then they would have passed the point of no return.
Of course, opening the movie with a statement like that is designed to entice the audience to tap into a credible 'real world' within which a tale unfolds. It fails on every level, despite peppering us with a spate of hammy television 'news reports'. The story revolves around a bland young lady Isabelle (Fernanda Andrade), who heads to the Vatican with a cameraman to visit her possessed and murderous mother Maria (Suzan Crowley).
With plans to perform a secret exorcism on her mother, Isabelle hooks up with a couple of priests who are so outrageously dull that they make Father Paul Stone from Father Ted look like the epitome of fun. To make matters worse, they are soon delivering purportedly heartfelt pieces to camera. There's also a point when one of them, who doesn't deserve to be accorded a name, looks into a nurse's eyes and demands with a determined voice: "Listen to me! I'm a priest!"
The plot is so unashamedly derivative of vastly superior horror movies that it would be laughable if it wasn't conveyed in such an unengaging manner. It tries to convey the story largely through camerawork that is so shaky it gives the impression that Michael is beating one off while filming his (admittedly cute) female companion. Obviously it's an attempt to instill a jarring sense of urgency, but this technique is adopted even for static scenes devoid of movement!
At times, the pretence is ripped apart by sheer carelessness or laziness by the filmmakers. For example, there's a long shot of Isabelle knocking on a door, with no-one stood near her, which cuts to a shot from over her shoulders when she is still knocking. Is she being accompanied by an invisible entity cameraman too?
Even worse, conversations flow uninterrupted during sequences that contain different scenes and jump cuts - which again serves to sabotage the diegetic world that the film attempts to convey with its 'found footage' scenario. If someone has bothered to mix the sound on the footage, why didn't they remove lots of the deliberately raw, messy and visually incoherent camerawork elsewhere that adds nothing to the plot?
Perhaps the nadir of the movie, which is an achievement in itself given the competition, arrives when the group decides to watch some of the footage they have filmed - and that we saw them film before. It was bad enough watching it once, let alone watching these nondescript ciphers watch it for themselves. It is the cinematic equivalent of someone doing a dump and then wading through their own stools.
If that imagery leaves you with an unpleasant taste, then it's good preparation for anyone planning to see The Devil Inside. Low on ideas and poorly executed, it takes a threadbare plot and adds uninteresting characters and plenty of amateurish dialogue, screaming and shouting into the mix. You'll feel in need of an exorcism after sitting through it.