In Italy, a woman, Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade) and her cameraman Michael (Ionut Grama) document and become involved in a series of unauthorized exorcisms in hopes of discovering what happened to her mother, Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley), who murdered two priests and a nun during her own exorcism in 1989. Isabella enlists Fr. Ben (Simon Quarterman) and Fr. David (Evan Helmuth) in her quest to dispel her mother’s demons, which the Vatican doesn’t acknowledge.
The Devil Inside follows successfully in the steps of previous found footage films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. Commendably, there seems to be a solid number of stable shots with the camera unlike last year’s Apollo 18, which was shaky from start to finish. Unfortunately, the exorcism subgenre has overstayed its welcome (not evident by the first weekend’s box office receipts) as The Devil Inside doesn’t present any new concepts or ideas. Everything in this movie has been recycled from previous exorcist movies like The Exorcist and The Rite, the only real difference is the heavy-handed religious horror and shock value.
The “inspired by true events” film has drawn controversy from its intended shock value generated by its criticism of the Vatican and its image of a possessed nun, which was used to promote the film on billboards throughout California. It’s a movie that evokes a great deal of thought and places no restrictions on whose soul the devil may claim. In particular, to this effect, there is one extremely disturbing and controversial scene near the end of the film involving a Father and a baptism that people will have to see to believe, it’s one of those, “I can’t believe they put this in” moments.
With that, what is this movie based on? In 1992 there was an actual girl named Maria Rossi. She and a friend, Christina Molloy, both 17, attacked Rossi’s partially blind neighbor Edna Phillips. The girls, high on drugs and alcohol, strangled Phillips with a dog chain, slashed her face and stabbed her with a knife (86 times) and tried to scalp the 70-year-old woman before breaking eggs over her corpse. The next day, Rossi boasted about the murder and the girls sang “We’ve Killed Edna” to the tune of “The Wizard of Oz” – the girls were dubbed “evil.” The film, however, does not acknowledge this incident as a basis but the coincidental comparisons ranging from the name, proximate year and popular tune (Devil Inside uses “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”) would suggest this to be the event. The film even does a run-through of how Maria’s three victims died, stab wounds and strangulation. The Devil Inside promotes a website at the end, to add more validity to its found footage horror flick where viewers can learn more about the unresolved case of Maria Rossi (Crowley) at www.therossifiles.com. (sources include the BBC, The Independent and LA Times, all articles dated 1993).
Finally, the acting in The Devil Inside is actually decent – sure it’s not Oscar worthy, but it’s serviceable in making the film feel like it could be a real documentary, save for the evil looks to the camera and some of the other polished and stylized bits and pieces. Each of the actors, especially Suzan Crowley perform well in their possession, especially during those cringe-worthy, ultra-flexible moments.
The Devil Inside is rated R and runs 87 minutes.