‘The Devil Inside’ (2012) review: When exorcisms go bad

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‘Devil Inside’ a lackluster ‘Paranormal’ ripoff

As if there weren’t enough shakily filmed, found-footage horror flicks already available to moviegoers, we’re now expected to watch “The Devil Inside,” a exorcism/possession-based mockumentary. A blatant ripoff of better genre pieces — including “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity” — with a nonsensical plot and obvious shoestring budget, “The Devil Inside” reminds us that just because something worked once doesn’t mean it will again.

Directed by William Brent Bill and written by both him and Matthew Peterman, “The Devil Inside” revolves around the Rossi family, the mother Maria and daughter Isabella in particular.

In 1989, Maria (a solid Suzan Crowley) went completely psychotic, murdering three religious functionaries who were trying to perform an exorcism on her. Obviously, everything did not go accordingly. The resulting bloodbath landed Maria in a Italian institution, where she languished until 2009.

At that point, daughter Isabella (Fernanda Andrade) travels to Rome — the Vatican, to be particular — with a documentary filmmaker, Michael (Ionut Grama) to see her mother and to confront her regarding her heinous past.

In Rome, Isabella conveniently attends classes at what can only be described as Exorcism University, with the lessons teaching clerics the difference between mental illness and the effects of evil presences. Here, Isabella meets two priests/exorcists, Ben Rawlings (Simon Quarterman) and David Keane (Evan Helmuth). Also conveniently, these two perform rogue exorcisms, claiming that the Holy See’s bureaucracy prevents, even hinders them from helping those who may be possessed.

Starting a cataclysmic series of events, Ben and David invite Isabella and her filmmaker to a real exorcism, saying she will learn more in five minutes there than in three months in class. In return, Isabella introduces the men to her mother. The rest, mostly involving Maria and her insane eyes, follows predictably.

There’s hardly much more to say. You’ll jump in your seats a few times, but it will rarely be out of surprise. (It hard not to jump when people lunge at you from crawl spaces.) Director Bill included the mandatory cursing and body twisting (and some apparent telekinetic ability) required in any supernatural-based horror movie. And there’s plenty of shaky camera in a failed effort to establish realism.

But with the tickets to Rome most likely being the most costly item in this production, the scariest thing about “The Devil Inside” is that Paramount Pictures, the studio behind this venture and “Paranormal,” thought it could get away with yet another entry into this already exhausted genre. It’s not really surprising, though: This is the same company bankrolling “Paranormal Activity 4.”

One possessed star out of five.

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Above, a scene from "The Devil Inside." (Photo credit: Paramount Pictures)

Above, a scene from “The Devil Inside.” (Photo credit: Paramount Pictures)

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