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The Devil Inside Blu-ray Review

The Devil Inside (2012) movie poster The Devil Inside

Theatrical Release: January 6, 2012 / Running Time: 83 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: William Brent Bell / Writers: William Brent Bell, Matthew Peterman

Cast: Fernanda Andrade (Isabella Rossi), Simon Quarterman (Father Ben Rawlings), Evan Helmuth (Father David Keane, M.D.), Ionut Grama (Michael Schaefer), Suzan Crowley (Maria Rossi), Bonnie Morgan (Rosa Sorlini), Brian Johnson (Lieutenant Dreyfus), Dr. Jeff Victorof (Himself), Pamela Davis (Herself), John Prosky (Father Christopher Aimes), Claudiu Isotodor (Doctor Antonio Costa), Toma Danila (Marco), Claudiu Trandafir (Father Robert Gallo), Maria Junghietu (Mrs. Sorlini), Ilinea Harnut (Italian Nurse), Corneliu Ulici (Romanian Priest), Andrei Araditis (Hopper), Sorin Cocis (Italian Doctor), Leila Goldoni (Susan Meadows), Suzanne Freeman (Female Newscaster), Greg Wolf (Male News Anchor)

Buy The Devil Inside on Blu-ray exclusively at Best Buy / Buy from Amazon.com: DVD Instant Video

To movie studios, reviews are a form of publicity. And as the saying goes, the only bad publicity is no publicity. But in some cases, no publicity is considered preferable to an inevitable critical trashing. In such rare cases, the studio withholds a movie from advanced critic screenings. Outlets can still opt to cover the movie, but they'll typically have to do so a day late and at their own expense.
Maybe in the olden days, studios could take this drastic step without the public noticing, but today, everything is documented online. So when a studio forgoes screenings, it is basically waving a white flag, admitting that "Yes, this movie is so bad we're better off with no reviews at all than the vitriol we'd get the standard route."

Studios generally do not withhold home video releases from critics, although most take (unnecessary, I assume) piracy-thwarting measures by holding off final product until close to street date. In my experiences, Paramount usually sends out final product farther in advance than their fellow big studios, often getting discs to critics a generous two to three weeks before it hits stores. When The Devil Inside, not screened in advance for critics prior to its theatrical release on 2012's first weekend, did not arrive until yesterday, the day it became available to own, I realized this too was a way to manage and downplay critical derision. Now that it's too late to cancel your preorder, the studio appears to be okay with us trashing the movie, so long as we're talking about it.

Having now seen the film, these measures strike me as extreme, but perhaps I've just been utterly disarmed by the studio caution, which even extends to Paramount leaving their name and logo off the beginning of the film, instead making it the first to carry the banner Insurge Pictures, the company's micro-budget division announced in 2010.

Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley) is just as creepy as you'd expect an institutionalized and possibly possessed murderer to be.

The Devil Inside utilizes the methods that have enabled such micro-budgeted fare as The Blair Witch Project and the Paranormal Activity series to exist and prosper. It is presented as a documentary with both first-person photography and an air of found footage. Our focus centers on Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade), a young woman in her late twenties whose mother Maria (Suzan Crowley) made national headlines in 1989 for a gruesome triple homicide with religious overtones. Maria was found not guilty by reason of insanity and ever since has been living in captivity in Italy's Centrino Mental Hospital.

Still haunted and puzzled by her mother's violent breakdown twenty years later, Isabella enlists cameraman Michael (Ionut Grama) to journey with her to the Vatican's exorcism school. Isabella believes that her mother must have been possessed to commit such a horrendous act, but the Roman Catholic Church, careful to distinguish between mental illness and genuine possession, does not agree.

Fortunately for Isabella, two of her exorcism classmates, Father Ben Rawlings (Simon Quarterman) and Father David Keane (Evan Helmuth), share her frustration over official inaction. The two young priests have been conducting their own secret, unauthorized exorcisms of cases they consider demonic possession despite not meeting the Church's criteria.

Isabella and Michael accompany the men of the cloth to one such eye-opening exorcism marked by contortion, pupil dilation, foreign tongues, and, uh, bleeding. Inevitably, the group will try applying the same treatment on camera to Maria Rossi. What in the world could go wrong?

Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade) is our young, pretty perspective to the film's supernatural Italian horror (actually filmed in Romania). What self-respecting exorcism movie goes without a bit of freaky contortion?

A number of things about The Devil Inside confound me, but few of them involve the movie itself,
which is a fairly routine and competent execution of a low-budget horror concept. The film's acting, makeup, and visual effects are all better than you'd expect for a no-name production pegged at just $1 million. Even the design holds up to as much scrutiny as a Paranormal Activity installment. It's true that the movie is short, with the hilariously slow end credits scroll (the slowest I've ever seen in my life) beginning just 77 minutes in (no doubt to protect the movie's investment for future TV sales). More problematic is the fact that the movie doesn't so much end as just fall apart, though that is somewhat of a hallmark for these kinds of faux-reality films.

None of that, however, explains why The Devil Inside boasted one of the biggest opening weekends its genre and the month of January have ever seen, grossing a remarkable $33.7 million (half of that from Friday alone) and easily topping the Christmastime blockbusters and Oscar fare then in their third and fourth weekends. Nor does it explain how Devil emerged with apparently toxic word of mouth and a rare "F" Cinemascore from moviegoers. It dropped a staggering 76% in its second weekend and proceeded to show some of the worst box office legs of all time, ending up with just $53 M domestically and $101 M worldwide, totals about as low as imaginable after that gangbuster start but still wildly profitable considering the costs.

Also ranking high on my list of Devil Inside-related mysteries is the fact that the film's home video cover art (and before it one of its posters) prominently showcases a foggy-eyed nun who literally features in the film as a passing character for mere seconds. Her appearance grabs your attention in the film and I guess as a cover too, and I understand the challenges facing a micro-budgeted movie's marketing department, but is there not to be even a shred of truth in advertising? (For that matter, the "inspired by true events" claim appears to be utterly hollow.)

The Devil Inside becomes the latest and perhaps most significant Paramount title to become a Best Buy-exclusive Blu-ray Disc. Though its DVD is now available everywhere, the BD can only be found at the struggling yellow and blue-schemed retailer, an arrangement one assumes benefits both studio and store (though it's also quite possible that neither gains from this).

The Devil Inside Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy exclusively from Best Buy Blu-ray Disc Details

1.78:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: May 15, 2012
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($29.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Devil Inside opens with some unpredictable 1.33:1 crime scene and TV news video from the late 1980s (far more convincing than Paranormal Activity 3's crystal-clear home movies from the same era). After that, it settles into its 1.78:1 nearly present-day documentary makings, which find it satisfying with clear (but not big studio movie and professional cinematographer clear) digital video, much of it shot handheld. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is better than you'd expect from such a documentary, delivering atmosphere, several jump in your seat moments, and no score.
No fewer than four additional Dolby Digital 5.1 language options and five subtitle tracks are kindly offered.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Devil Inside is joined by no bonus features whatsoever, not even its night-vision audience trailers. How unusual.

A lone insert does promise you access to a hi-def UltraViolet stream of the film. Good luck with that, if you're so inclined.

The static, silent menu displays a wide version of a poster image (this one featuring Maria's lip, not that random uncredited nun extra). Before it loads, the disc tries to stream you some current trailers; I got one for G.I. Joe: Retaliation, though it stops when the stream hits a buffering snag.

Exorcism student Fr. Ben Rawlings (Simon Quarterman) shares his background and feelings, when he's not taking us along for unauthorized exorcisms. Pupil dilation is an important measure to our unsanctioned exorcists, so thankfully they always remember to set up pupil cams with a metric ruler right on the screen.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

My rock-bottom expectations may be partly to blame, but I didn't find The Devil Inside all that bad, especially compared to other recent exorcism films (like last year's dreary standardly-budgeted The Rite). Sure, it has its problems and takes more from than it gives to the low-budget horror playbook, but it is reasonably unsettling throughout and only really stumbles at its conclusion.

Paramount's Blu-ray offers a fine feature presentation and nothing else. Clearly, it isn't worth going out of your way to find at Best Buy, but those committed to the genre and fond of no-name, no-budget works will probably want to see this at some point.

Buy The Devil Inside on Blu-ray exclusively at Best Buy / Buy from Amazon: DVD / Instant Video

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Reviewed May 16, 2012.



Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2012 Insurge Pictures, Prototype Productions, and Paramount Home Entertainment.
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