Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Devil Inside (2012)

For me, one of the most memorable episodes of How I Met Your Mother features Barney's video resume.  Throughout the television series, Barney makes references to his blog and his web site, and in this particular episode he has his friends pull up his video resume online.  To my memory no address is given, but at this point, after reading his blog online and his printed book The Bro Code (also referenced throughout the series), I knew a quick Google search would take me directly to the video featured on the show.  Tactics like these--pulling the viewer into the world of the show via external sources--works well with How I Met Your Mother.  In the case of The Devil Inside, however, such devices have left me unmoved and slightly annoyed.

But before jumping to the matter external to the movie (matter I didn't even discover until the end of the movie), let's focus on the movie itself, which opens in the documentary style.  I wondered if it were going to remain like this throughout--which would've been more than welcome in my opinion--but, sadly, it does not.  Sadly?  Yes, sadly.  I say this because, after having seen the film, I can say that it would've been fresher had it remained a collage of newspaper clippings, interviews, etc., as the opening sequences gripped me much more than the switch-over to a mockumentary/found-footage form.  I thought perhaps I'm just too immune to this stuff now.  Sticking strictly to documentary made Lake Mungo and Cropsey great because it was so different (to be fair, people have pointed out that I wouldn't feel this way if I watched Unsolved Mysteries more often!).  But that's not to say found-footage still doesn't have life in it--all it takes is a good story with some change-ups to keep it fresh (The Last Exorcism, for example).

Coincidentally, I fell asleep shortly after the film switched from documentary to found-footage.  (I do realize that the film was intended to be "turned into a documentary"; I'm just referring to the form that we actually get as the audience).  The film kept jolting me awake to the raucous sounds of exorcisms, and I would rewind and try to get into it again, only to return to my slumber moments later.  Finally, as I awoke to the credits lethargically moving up the screen, I decided to go to bed.  Thus I had to give the move a proper watch the next day.  This time, I realized why I kept falling asleep.  The movie is barely 80 minutes long, but it is congested with politico-religious banter, none of which is anything new: the Church doesn't do what's right; the Church won't condone our attempts at finding out what's wrong; I need to do what I believe is right; they just keep her drugged up and won't properly evaluate her; the institution versus the individual; and so on ad infinitum.  I get that the film has to establish each character's conflict to justify their actions, but can I please get a fresh story?

But for all my negativity, the movie isn't a flop.  There are some pleasing elements, such as the overhead camera perspective during the exorcisms, which provided some nice angles and effects.  (The car-mounted cameras, on the other hand, are a strange and useless choice.)  And the exorcisms themselves (well, at least the first one) are pretty intense.  The verbal intensity isn't quite on the level of the film that spearheaded the exorcism genre 40 years ago, but it definitely pays its mandatory homage.  Audio design is well done, and there is more than one blood spattering, which threw me a curve-ball in light of the fact that this was a wide theatrical release.  In fact, I'm really surprised this dark indie horror was picked up and distributed on such a wide scale.  I'm used to films like this being packaged as unforgivingly horrific masterpieces, but actually being glossy PG-13 thrillers designed to reach the widest demographic scope possible (read: make the most money possible).  So, the film, within it's scant 80-minute runtime, does offer some pleasing effects--especially the contortionist effects, which always stir me (The Last Exorcism, The Exorcism of Emily Rose).

Another saving grace of the film is Fernanda Andrade, whom I had never seen before.  Aside from the obvious placement of a beautiful girl at the forefront of the film, she is a superb choice for the role.  And there are times when the movie seems to be aware of itself, though not in quite the meta-film way of, say, the Scream franchise.  For example, the dog-jumping-against-the-fence stock scare; and the I'm-just-the-annoying-camera-guy bit.  In the end, the film's subtle self-awareness and the fresh face of Fernanda Andrade weren't enough to bring me back (unless you count the fact that I fell asleep the first time and had to re-watch it the next day).  And when the film ended and I promptly visited the supplemental web site, as directed, I found myself annoyed at the marketing of external resources to generate forced controversy and buzz around the film.  But they've sure done a great job.  Don't believe me?  Just check out the lengthy discussion on said supplemental web site, which prompts you to "be a part of the ongoing investigation."

No comments:

Post a Comment