In two weeks, we're getting a fourth UNDERWORLD movie. You may or not recall that the first entry in the series gave me an unforgettable combination of boredom and headaches, and to this day I still haven't seen the second and third entries--nor do I feel inclined to bother with the fourth. Still, the rest of the fan world makes it clear that I'm in the minority... and this from the guy who still keeps up with the RESIDENT EVIL movies. Hey--if I'm missing something truly special, let me know?
Ah, but an unassuming "found footage" movie aping the recent rash of exorcism movies? Turned into a surprise smash hit by the studio that knew exactly what it was doing with the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies? And inspiring audiences from coast to coast to groan, boo and throw popcorn at the screen? Now, THIS I've got to see...
Rest assured, there will be SPOILERS. They're unavoidable. But it shouldn't matter--it's the number one movie in America, so odds are you've seen it, right? Besides, this one's virtually unspoilable.
"The Vatican does not permit the recording of Roman Catholic exorcisms. The Vatican did not endorse this film--nor did it participate in its making."
Translation: "We never approached the Vatican for anything in the first place. But since we put it like THAT, we're betting that enough of you are going to believe that we're serving up authentic bootleg recordings of Roman Catholic exorcisms and that you won't notice that every role in the movie is fairly credited to its respective ACTOR in the end credits."
Speaking of "credit," let's give THE DEVIL INSIDE its due. It was neither made nor performed by incompetents. The people who got together on this one did their homework. Both the fuzzy "1989" news tapes that kick off the story and the assembled "documentary" footage that follows seem as authentic as any of their predecessors. Seems back in '89, one Maria Russo savagely murdered three clerics as they attempted to pursue an exorcism. Since then, she's been packed off to an asylum in Italy. Cut to twenty years later as her grown daughter makes the pilgrimage (trusty cameraman in tow) to meet her in person. Since the Church hasn't officially recognized her mother's possession, she needs to know the truth (not to mention whether or not the condition was hereditary).
Now, never mind the official sanction of the Vatican... the believability factor of THE DEVIL INSIDE takes its first serious blow when we're asked to swallow that two young rogue priests (one of whom is also an M.D.) agree to use their real names and appear on film performing their unauthorized exorcism activities even as they constantly worry aloud about excommunication and prosecution for their violations of both Church and country law...
But for all that, the actors are reasonably engaging (while never rendering a bravura character like the protagonist of THE LAST EXORCISM) and the shock material usually delivers the desired impact. Hell, even the gratuitous "sudden dog" moment made me jump in spite of myself. The exorcism histrionics deliver with at least one truly accomplished contortionist complementing the typical "shakycam" wall-crawling, lunging, screaming and swearing... and the aftermath contains some effective high-impact moments... while delivering ABSOLUTELY NOTHING YOU HAVEN'T SEEN BEFORE. This is pure meat and potatoes, albeit served up by a crew that at least had a gift for efficient mimicry. The typical audience will get the jolts and screams they want.
So where's the outrage? The barely-feature-length predicto-fest comes to an utterly laughable climax seemingly inspired by the HIDDEN/JASON GOES TO HELL tradition before stopping short (the way they ALL do). But Paramount, in its wisdom, THEN directs you to a website for updates on the "ongoing investigation!"
Nah, I won't share it. You'd be wasting your time if you've already seen the film--it's nothing but your typical BLAIR WITCH anticipation-builder... you know... the thing you're supposed to hit up BEFORE you see the film? Nor am I inclined to keep returning to seek out new revelations. Nothing to see here, folks... let's move it along...
Well, the audience I saw this thing with was apparently out of popcorn, but I wasn't disappointed by the groaning and the booing. So you thought THE LAST EXORCISM had a bad ending? How would YOU have ended it?
Did I just spend 90 minutes (COUNTING ads and trailers, of which there were plenty) watching a COMMERCIAL?
Oh, Paramount scored a hit... but I think this time they might have killed their own golden goose...
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