The new “found footage” horror entry, “The Devil Inside,” has plenty of problems as a stand alone film. My colleague Christian Toto points out many of them here. Reportedly, Paramount purchased the exorcist story for somewhere around a million dollars, which means that even after the costs associated with advertising, profits will be pouring in after only one weekend. Good for them; the marketing was better than the film. What’s new?
But I do think that all those involved made an error in using the film to gratuitously bash the Catholic Church. One of the few genres us Jesus freaks are still able to enjoy is the horror genre, especially as it relates to — say it with me — SATAN!, because for all the horror elements that might turn some social conservatives off (violence, etc.), our faith is at least accepted as a reality. For my money, “The Exorcist” is one of the most Christian films ever made. Bottom line: This Jesus freak loves getting the devil scared out him.
Thus, I purchased my ticket for “The Devil Inside” expecting heroic Catholic priests and the purity of Jesus Christ to be presented as the only antidote to a certain kind of evil in the world. What? Scientists can’t answer everything and fix everything? That’s not what PBS told me… with my tax dollars.
Thankfully, I can report that this marginal horror film that delivers only a very few tense moments does, in fact, star two heroic priests and Christ’s goodness. But for some reason these are “rogue” priests who work outside the church and trash it at every opportunity. You see, because the church is “hypocritical” and “bureaucratic” and “doesn’t care about people,” it no longer sanctions exorcisms, so it’s up to these two to risk excommunication and fight the devil outside the system.
This is Hollywood having its cake and eating it too. Obviously, this is an industry uncomfortable with the concept of God, Christ, faith and most especially organized religion, but by trashing the Catholic Church they can exploit our religion to make a buck and still feel as though they’re standing by their non-principles, non-faith, and deep-seated belief in nothing.
The rogue priest idea is actually a good one. You want your protagonists to be out there on their own. It ups the danger level through a sense of isolation. Story-wise I get that. But the reasoning is lazy and these moments of gratuitous exposition take you out of the story as you share one of those “there goes bigoted Hollywood again” eye rolls.
There are over a billion Catholics in the world. How does this make any sense?
Outside of the obnoxious, hostile politics, “The Devil Inside” has a number of other serious problems, chief among them a narrative that doesn’t create anything close to a sense of dread. Worse, you never feel as though the story is headed towards an inevitable confrontation that will be awful… and awesome. And the climax really isn’t. As our heroes fight the devil, we the customers fight the boredom.
Nikki Finke reports that the film is receiving a hearty “F” from the customers, so just about everyone is feeling duped. Instead of wasting your hard-earned money on “The Devil Inside” this weekend, let me recommend renting “The Last Exorcism” (my review), another found-footage, pseudo-doc that gets better with each viewing. There’s also “Paranormal Activity 1 and 2,” and the grandaddy of them all, “The Blair Witch Project.”