‘The Devil Inside’ movie review: found footage Exorcist knockoff is the pits

The CinemaScore rating system, conducted by scorecards handed out after screenings, measures general audience reaction to a movie. Most movies rate an A or B. Transformers: Dark of the Moon was graded an A. If a movie rates a C, it’s in trouble.

The Devil Inside scored an F, which is almost unheard of. In fact, only five other movies have scored an F in the 20-odd years CinemaScore has been conducting surveys: Darkness (2002), Wolf Creek, Richard Kelly’s The Box, Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris, and William Friedkin’s Bug. None of those are terrible films, but they were all rejected by mainstream audiences.

The Devil Inside, on the other hand, is a terrible film. CinemaScore ratings don’t mean much, but they highlight films that aren’t clicking with mainstream tastes, regardless of critical perception. The Devil Inside also rates a sparkling 5% on the Tomatometer. Here’s a film that everybody can hate.

Why the negativity? This is a cheap, gimmicky, braindead found footage supernatural thriller riding on the heels of The Blair Witch Project, the Paranormal Activity series, and The Last Exorcism. That may not be a turnoff for some audiences (hey, I found Paranormal Activity 3 pretty intense), but this film features one of the most insulting endings imaginable: after an abrupt finale that fails to provide any sense of conclusion, a title card directs viewers to visit a website (www.therossifiles.com) “for more information on the ongoing investigation.”

Gee, thanks. Insult to injury: that website seems to be nothing more than a promo, filled with YouTube clips from the film (you might have guessed: this is not, despite its claims, anything resembling a true story).

The Devil Inside is told from the point of view of “filmmaker” Michael Schaefer (Ionut Grama), who places cameras in convenient positions – including both sides of a rental car, so the (eventual) filmmakers have plenty to cut back-and-forth from – and (seemingly) gives a camera to each main character to record a video diary of talking heads to explain the story to us.

He’s following Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade), who has recently learned that her mother (Suzan Crowley) killed three people years ago during a botched exorcism. Mom was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and, as is standard procedure in these cases, flown to an Italian psychiatric ward for (presumably) convenient Vatican monitoring.

Isabella travels to Rome, drops in on some exorcism lectures swiped from last year’s The Rite, hooks up with young priests David (Evan Helmuth) and Ben (Simon Quarterman), who conduct their own rogue exorcisms, and stops by to see Mom. Of course, it’s decided that they should perform another exorcism on the poor lady. That’s the next logical step, right? What could possibly go wrong?

Amateur hour on all fronts, filmed with a gimmick that’s supposed to make this palatable but only ends up infuriating (even a documentary filmmaker this inept should be able to keep the damn camera steady), The Devil Inside is pure garbage that makes one yearn for The Exorcist or any of its sequels. 

Of course, despite the hate on all fronts, this thing topped $35 million in its opening weekend in the US, on a purported budget of $1 million (which seems much too high). Abandon all hope.


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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