I watched my first exorcist movie, The Exorcist, at the tender age of 13. Instead of nightmares, it made me laugh and brag about how awesome it was and how much I loved it. That was the beginning, over the years it has been followed by many other movies, each following that standard formula of a terribly possessed woman (are men immune? Does the devil just not care all that much about them?), a priest and his mini priest who isn’t quite as skilled or experienced, and as for the ending – it can go either way, but usually God triumphs.
I don’t go in expecting a deviation from the norm, heck that’d be setting myself up for failure in the case of 90% of movies, but the journey’s always fun. With The Devil Inside, however, I found that the standard formula wasn’t going to cut it.
The main thing that really sets it apart can be summed up in a question one of my friends asked during the move- ‘Is this a documentary?’. The first half of the movie is made to look impeccably like a documentary. There are no shots that aren’t made by cameras that aren’t bring carried by one of the main characters or haven’t been set up by him. If it wasn’t for this then the beginning of the movie might have been painfully slow, but instead it gave us a better look at the main character and her background without being too contrived. I don’t think it could have been done much better, while giving that much detail. This kind of explanation just doesn’t come organically.
Stylistically it looks excellent, as I said, it tricks you (even if just for a second), into thinking – ‘Wait, should I Google this? Is this actually a documentary?’ Once the movie really gets going though, that sort of disappears and the documentary style has more purpose in terms of suspense, and building tension.
Another positive aspect of the documentary style is the acting. In a documentary the main focus person is always pretty vulnerable, I mean they are baring their life to the scrutiny of a camera and an audience. Fernanda Andrade plays this vulnerability perfectly, she’s part of the reason that the documentary style works so well, if she had played it any less believably the whole thing would have crumbled.
I won’t get too much into the story, but basically her mother has spent the last 20 years in an asylum for the criminally insane for doing some very naughty things and being totally cuckoo, and now she want some answers about the quite shady things surrounding her mother’s outburst that involved two priests and a nun (ooh, sounds familiar?), and also her mother’s transferral to Rome. I don’t really know how based in logic that one is, is the proximity to the Vatican meant to help or something? Anyway, she makes the trip to Rome and the movie follows her attempt to find answers.
There is a strong nod towards science and medicine, and how the increase in this knowledge affects exorcism as a practice and belief. Given the somewhat non-scientific basis of the movie it was nice to be given a more balanced view. And in fact during the movie one character listing off all the reasons for possessed behaviour as related to mental disorder symptoms.
Like I mentioned previously, the plot doesn’t go stock standard, and does take a few twists here and there that keep it fresh and made me appreciate it a little bit more. The biggest let down, however, is the ending. It feels like the movie ends 10 minutes early, when the final credits appear I was just left with this unresolved little ball of suspense sitting in my stomach and I had no idea what to do with it.
However, even if it does feel like they accidentally cut out the last ten minutes (or even last 2 minutes, seriously, just a short scene would have been nice, even if just to finish it off on a still unfinished, but more closure-y way), I wasn’t left being angry like I usually am if the ending is stupid. At least it was pretty plainly meant to be unfinished in a big way, unlike some films that wave it around in front of your face like ‘Come up with your OWN ending suckers!’. Following in the documentary style, it ends abruptly, and kinda where it would if you think about it. But just because I’m all Zen about it doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same way, so take heed and expect to not be given that lovely little resolution at the end of the movie.
The movie is filmed in an obviously ‘documentary’ style, and it works really, really well. The tension in some scenes is just fantastic, and that can once again be attributed to the acting and directing of the movie. Considering they didn’t rely on a soundtrack to get the audience really hyped up, they definitely succeeded in using other visual means, and pacing, to build the suspense. And hey, there are only two scenes where you’re in darkness with only one light to see everything with, which is a big horror staple.
There’s no real soundtrack, which means that there is nowhere really to hide in terms of the music. There are occasional sound effect accents to accompany some moments, but the movie does not rely on them at all.
All up, I enjoyed the film. I respected the way it was directed, applaud the acting, and think that it was that lovely little sense of something different that you don’t get to see a whole lot of from mainstream movies. But if you like your resolutions at the end of movies, then maybe look elsewhere.