Friday, January 6, 2012

With Any Luck, This'll Be The Worst Horror Movie Of 2012

It's never fun to report that the first horror movie of the year is lousy but yet that seems to be an annual tradition. January releases are notoriously bad, with the likes of The Rite (2011), Legion (2010), and One Missed Call (2008) standing as evidence to that. Now we can add The Devil Inside to that list. No doubt looking to score another Paranormal Activity-sized hit, Paramount has heavily promoted this exorcism thriller. What a shame that they couldn't have spent a little of that ad money on fixing The Devil Inside's dismal climax so that the word of mouth wouldn't be so poisonous.

For most of its running time, The Devil Inside is agreeable nonsense. Director and co-writer William Brent Bell plays it all straight-faced and faux-educational. Even if you think exorcisms and religion are a bunch of hooey, the clinical presentation that Bell goes for early on is involving and seems to show some research into the subject (Did you know that a key sign of possession is extreme pupil dialation? I didn't.).

With cameras documenting her journey, Isabella (Fernanda Andrade), travels to Rome to visit her institutionalized mother Maria (Suzan Crowley) who Isabella believes may have been possessed when she committed three murders twenty years earlier. Isabella's investigation into her mother's condition puts her in contact with Ben (Simon Quarterman) and David (Evan Helmuth), two priests who are conducting exorcisms without the church's approval. Together they attempt to discern the true nature of Maria's condition.

From this set-up, there's the potential for an eerie, ambiguous film. But Bell and co-writer Matthew Peterman aren't out to make that kind of movie. Instead they're going for all the satanic (tubular) bells and whistles they can conjure. Once the first onscreen exorcism hits, and any doubt in the supernatural goes along with it, events become more crazed and mad-cap as the movie hurtles towards what promises to be an exciting climax - but then it all abruptly comes to a (literally) crashing halt in a manner so sudden that audiences will do their own version of Linda Blair's 360 degree head spin.

The sizable audience I saw The Devil Inside with was totally on board with the movie up until its final seconds - screaming, gasping, and occasionally chuckling throughout its running time. But when the movie suddenly cut to the credits (with a helpful web address provided for anyone who wants to learn more about the case!), the unanimous outburst of disappointment was loud and immediate.

No ad campaign can keep bad word of mouth from spreading once a film is out - especially not in the age of the internet - so instead of studios putting so much money into tricking people into seeing a turkey, shouldn't they do all they can to make a movie that people can legitimately enjoy and recommend rather than just leaving them feeling suckered? I just don't get it. And the selling of the movie aside, when filmmakers bungle a horror movie so badly, I have to wonder - is it because they don't have the talent to do better, or because they don't have a feel for the genre, or is it because they have such a contempt for the audience that they don't think anyone going to see a movie like The Devil Inside has any critical faculties?

Whatever the case, The Devil Inside is a letdown. Bad horror movies don't dampen my love of the genre but they do make me feel had and that's never a good feeling. Here's hoping that with the release of The Devil Inside that the worst of 2012's horror crop is already out of the way.

8 comments:

FilmFather said...

I've read multiple reports today about people booing and demanding money back at screenings of this. After nearly 40 years, why can't anybody make a possession movie that's even remotely as good as The Exorcist?

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Planet of Terror said...

Seems to be unanimous across the board: a total stinker of an ending.

Too bad, I thought this would kick off 2012 with a bang.

Jeff Allard said...

FF, that's a good question. I think the exorcism sub-genre is responsible for more bad horror films than any other. Why it is, I don't know but The Exorcist has clearly proven to be an impossible act to follow.

Thanks for the link to your We Need To Talk About Kevin review, by the way - that's a movie I'm both eager to see and dreading at the same time.

PoT, I thought The Devil Inside would get the year off to a strong start too - sucks to be disappointed.

Revil Fox said...

Would it have been a better ending if the credits started to roll, and during the credits there was a 'Breaking News' type of segment with a reporter on the scene talking about the tragic death of these three people?

Jeff Allard said...

Revil Fox, that's a good idea. I don't think it would've fixed things completely but it might've helped. There definitely needed to be something more. As is, the story was just too truncated. Although I have to say, I really wonder how this movie will play on a second viewing. I won't be rushing to find out for myself but I would be interested to hear from somebody if the ending seems less jarring - and maybe even more fitting - the second time around.

Mummbles said...

I usually stay away from any exorcism movie that has come out in the last 20 years, honestly have any of them been good? Just go re-watch a good one you know and save your time. Face it horror movies have not been good for many many years...sad but true.

Jeff Allard said...

There haven't been many good exorcism movies, I'll agree with that (although I'm a fan of The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Last Exorcism has plenty of supporters) but horror movies in general? I wouldn't agree with that statement. The present is always unfavorably compared with earlier eras. That was true even back in the late '70s/early '80s - an era now regularly cited as a "golden era" for horror.

The Film Connoisseur said...

Wow, so this movie is getting bad reviews all over! Too bad really, Im actually looking forward to it. It seems most of the anger towards this movie comes from the way it ends...which I hear is abrupt, which is the way that a lot of these found footage films end, with slamming the door on the audiences faces.