I had little hope for "The Devil Inside" after reading an onslaught of verbal bashing in reviews on Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes, the latter of which has scored the film with a measly seven percent approval rating.
As a guest rounded the corner of the dark theater too fast and surprised my girlfriend, I prematurely joked that this would likely be the scariest occurrence in the theater that night. I was even anticipating the "booing" at the end of the film, something that has allegedly happened in several theaters.
Not only was there no booing, but the film was not nearly as bad as it has been made out.
It could've been the fact that I made the mistake of expecting the worst that had me leaving pleasantly surprised. The film is by no means a masterpiece, but on a one million dollar production budget that still offers sufficient suspense, an interesting plot, and above-average acting, I think people are being too harsh.
After all, "The Devil Inside" has already pulled in more than $33 million since opening on Jan. 6. I will argue that the trailer was better than the film, a factor that might be contributing to the early success. Maybe the poor reviews are so abundant because only people with something bad to say tend to say anything at all.
The film stars Fernanda Andrade as Isabella Rossi, who is on a quest to unveil the mystery behind the three murders committed by her mother, Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley), several years prior.
Aware that the murders took place during an attempted exorcism, Isabella travels to Rome to learn more about exorcisms and demons, and to reunite with her mother, who is now being held there in a psychiatric ward after being deemed insane. Her friend and documentary filmmaker, Michael (Ionut Grama), comes along to capture the story on camera.
Upon their meeting, Maria denies having a daughter, and frightens Isabella out of the room after showing her several cuts on her arms, and then bursting into a horrendous, animal-like scream.
Certain her mother is possessed, Isabella seeks the help of two priests named Benji (Simon Quaterman), and David (Evan Helmuth). Together, they attempt an exorcism on Maria, despite their lack of authorization from the Roman Catholic Church.
After the exorcism is broken up by ward staff, the group returns to the quarters of Benji and David, where David begins acting strangely, showing extreme signs of stress and eating alone in the dark. After he attempts drowning a baby during a baptism, the group realizes that whatever possessed Maria has entered David.
The group must salvage the little unity they have as the now mobile demon jumps between them in an attempt to turn them against one another. The film ends abruptly just as it seems to reach its most climactic point, something that has been the very centerpiece of critics' slanders.
Still, everything leading to that point merits this as a decent horror film, and there are indeed some scary moments, despite the claims. After Isabella watches her mother violently smash her own head into a wall and howl as the guards try to stop her, she is placed in the room with her, alone, for the reunion. If that possessed stare, wry grin, and repetitious chanting doesn't give you the chills, you might have dressed too warmly.
And that is the very problem with all the criticism: over-preparation.
Because the film follows the visual documentary style and theme of the wildly successful Paranormal Activity, I think people have done the exact opposite of what I did; they've gone into the film with the bar raised, expecting more and leaving disappointed.
I suppose the lesson to be taken away from this all is to minimize preconceived notions before seeing a film. If you're telling a friend about a film, be vague. If you hear someone rant about a film, use selective listening. Don't trust every review you read- not even this one. Try it for yourself.
Still, it's a mystery to me how "The Devil Inside" received such poor reviews, but then again, maybe I'm possessed.