Of all the weapons the dark lord possesses, his most pervasive and insidious is the found footage movie. Though not first, The Blair Witch Project was most famous, and its success spawned a multitude of devilish imitators riding the bandwagon to Hell, from Romero’s Diary of the Dead to the interminable Paranormal Activity films, where scares come from allowing the audience to fall asleep then waking them with loud bangs. So while the devil may very well be inside the studio creative departments, has evil got anything new to offer, other than the sight of a dead nun covered in blood?
Although marketed via a generic studio horror trailer, The Devil Inside is better than that would indicate. Rather than the ridiculous suspension of disbelief required in most found footage films, when the protagonists favour carrying cameras over weapons, this primary objection on principle is sidestepped by presenting the film as the variant known as a mockumentary.
Not only does this structure mean the footage has been professionally edited rather than presented as raw reels of tedium, but it allows the participants to be interviewed, discussing events rather than wilfully ignoring the fact that they are being filmed and avoiding the tiresome arguments that are often substituted for dialogue or acting. It also demonstrates more basic competence than the last Paranormal Activity: while both feature archive footage (there, almost the whole film, here, a prelude of police footage and news reports) the devil is in the details, and here the grainy video and distorted colours match the quality of the purported date, adding authenticity.
The found footage gimmick is usually utilised by those who optimistically believe their ideas surpass their modest funds, but atypical production value is added by location shooting in Italy, and the oppressive statues and icons of Rome are reminiscent of two underrated films of religious horror, The Sin Eater (also known as The Order) and The Rite rather than the budget conscious amateurism normally associated with the subgenre.
The cast are uniformly suited to their roles, the illusion of their conviction enhanced by casting unknowns, Fernanda Andrade as Isabella, Simon Quarterman and Evan Helmuth as the priests who facilitate her investigation, and Ionut Grama as the director, though Suzan Crowley as possessed mother Maria Rossi is easily the most entertaining, a further subversion of the genre, where most often the child plays demonic host.
While the film is overlong at 87 minutes, with a repetitious final act, fortunately the finale is satisfyingly swift and conclusive, unlike the funereal pace of the end credits, hopefully obviating any attempt at an unnecessary sequel.