So bad it’s … just really bad

2012-03-05 00:00

THE democratisation of film through sites like YouTube impacts on film both positively and negatively. On the one hand it has opened up a forum for film-makers to exhibit their work and explore personal moments from their varied lives; on the other hand it has elevated films lacking in craft and obsessed by the paradoxical relationship film has with reality. Thus we get the exploitation of shock and horror. We are meant to believe that what we are seeing is real and herein lies the conceit of the “found footage” genre.

The Blair Witch Project (1999) is perhaps the most famous example of a fictional film supposedly edited from “real-life” footage. The joke was on us, as it was with Orson Welles’s live radio broadcast of aliens landing on Earth in 1938. The weapons of mass destruction fiasco blurred the lines between make-believe and reality even more. Why then would we ever believe in the exorcisms of The Devil Inside?

The great frustration with this terribly directed hogwash is how seriously it takes itself and how stupid it thinks we are. Something even more terrifying is that it opened at No.1 on the American box office in early January although sanity prevailed in both the 3.5/10 rating on IMDB and 2.6/10 on Rotten Tomatoes.

The plot in a nutshell involves a young woman who decides to make a documentary about her mother. Mother, now residing in an asylum near Rome, was responsible for the death of two priests and a nun during her exorcism. Daughter, with cameraman in tow, hooks up with a duo of renegade Catholic priests. They use holy water and harsh biblical quotations to extract a swearing demon from a double-jointed contortionist. Of course it all goes pear-shaped when they decide to liberate Momma, resulting in the worst ending I’ve seen in the last 10 years.

The performances are horrific considering its vérité approach. I can hear the director saying “I need more reality here”. Just how do you make things more real than real as an actor — you fake it and swear a little bit. The “bad aesthetic” camera work is so completely contrived that the film keeps slipping into unknowing parody. All the while it remains humourlessly obsessed with sprouting exorcism clichés.

My suggestion is to make a real splatter movie for YouTube by putting the director in stocks and pelting him with rotten tomatoes. *

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