Why So Much Hate?
Found footage horror films these days are almost a dime a dozen, and to a discerning audience who will almost always head to the cinemas regardless, the challenge is to go one leg up over previous offerings, although most of the time many will fail at the final lap providing an ending that is quite disapproved of. The Last Exorcism was something that went out with a bang that was much reviled, but this one, directed by William Brent Bell, who co-wrote the story with Matthew Peterman, got critics and audiences up in arms in lambasting it as the worst film of all time. But is it really?
The ingredients for a horror film that serves up its fair share of scares are all inside this effort. There's Rome, there're demonic possessions, there's creepy sound effects and shadow and light play, jump scares, quick cuts, the works, although given that it's of the found footage genre one really cannot complain about the jerky and shaky camerawork that could get a little bit nauseating. It begins with a mystery, where a woman got makes a call to the police confessing having to kill 3 persons, only for us to slowly realize through newsreels that it was three persons involved in an exorcism on the woman who had turned tables around.
We then fast forward to the woman's daughter Isabella (Fernanda Andrade) who decides to go solve the mystery behind her mother's deeds, who is now locked up in the Vatican's appointed hospital for psychiatry. A documentary crew she conveniently commissions follows her to Rome, where she meets up with the priests Ben (Simon Quarterman) and David (Evan Helmuth) who soon bring her to experience one of their exorcisms performed on a woman called Rosalita (Bonnie Morgan), where the episode serves as a jump point and catalyst for everything else in the movie to follow on at breakneck speed, with the usual inputs that you'd already come to see in countless of exorcist type movies, and develops with a hint of what's being known as transference.
There are a couple of open, unresolved subplots that have opened the doors for prequels and sequels to happen, although whether or not these will be done is a huge question given the very large backlash. For instance, the back-story of Ben was kept very ambiguous, as is Isabella's, both having done something that could either be revealed to be more than meets the eye, or expanded for a little bit more depth. The build up toward the final act was great, because it created such a huge expectation that the stunt it pulled off in the last scene is admittedly very ballsy, although it got a reaction opposite of what it expected to be rewarded for having the guts to be different, pulling the plug and denying everyone a climatic battle to the finish.
Many will fault the film for that, and probably bear a grudge to condemn everything else that transpired in the film, which to me feels a little bit unfair. It decided to do what it set out to, and reminded everyone again of going back to basics for the sub-genre - something has to happen in some fashion like this for the found-footage itself to work. It is found after all, and inherently that calls for things to be left hanging, logically speaking. I have to credit the film too for being the only one I've seen so far in a horror film, where menstrual blood got spewed from the source and found reason to be splattered all over the camera. Talk about morbidity when you least expected it, in the most gooey fashion the filmmakers conjured.
For what got invested in production, the box office returns already made this a success, thanks to horror film aficionados who contributed to its coffers early in its release, before word of mouth slowly condemned it to fall quite spectacularly at the charts. Still, those looking for some scares will find The Devil Inside serving them up, but you'll just have to hold on to your horses at its ending - if you're open minded enough it's something you won't condemn immediately, especially if you take a step back to consider its few production and narrative merits.