Review in a Hurry: The devil is back for the umpteenth time to wreak havoc on shaky cams everywhere...It must be January at the multiplex. Aren't we tired of all these demon possession flicks yet? Well, sure and truthfully, most of it is tired, but this found footage flick has something new up it's heavily crucifixed sleeve, but to give that away would spoil the one genuinely scary part. For most of the running time this demon pic amps up the blurry shots and loud booming screams to signify well, not much.
The Bigger Picture: Based on a true story—at least as true as The Last Exorcism or The Rite anyway—Devil is the story of Maria Rossi (an effectively kooky Suzan Crowley), who back in '89 brutally murdered three clergy members of a local church when they attempted an exorcism on her. (Bad move.) Afterward, she called 911 to confess which is how the film opens. Twenty years later, Maria's daughter Isabella (Fernanda Andrade) who was 8 at the time of the grisly event heads to Italy to visit her institutionalized mother with a cameraman in tow.
The story of Devil is actually not bad per say, but the documentary style isn't doing it any favors. Audiences have experienced these types of scares way too many times: the seemingly random shot that reveals something just out of view, the deliberately bad audio that sounds off, and the frazzled picture that occurs when something supernatural occurs.
A more straightforward approach would have served much better (like last year's The Rite) since Isabella traveling to the Vatican and finding many skeptics among the holy works well to create tension. The "making a documentary" angle feels unnecessary.
Eventually, she finds two radical priests who do perform exorcisms (against the will of the church) who agree to help her with her mom. But is she basically just surrounding herself with people that tell her what she wants to hear? Much of the first half of the film goes back and forth with the science versus faith angle. Not inspired but effective.
Stunt films like these aren't exactly about nuance and character arcs—just get to the exorcisms!—so maybe we're better off not thinking too hard on the motivations of the rag tag group of wannabe exorcists, Isabella, the camera dude (really, the comedy relief dude) and all those possessed.
There are a lot of possessions. Apparently, Rome is overrun with them.
As mentioned, there is a twist of sorts that moves the story in a fresh, creepy and disturbing new direction, but it comes way late and then it's over all too quick. Viewers be warned this is the most abrupt ending in years. The audience we saw it with got pretty loud. Almost possessed with rage...
The 180—a Second Opinion: The two main women we witness getting their demon on impress. The trailers have shown a lot of Maria with her wicked multiple voices and oh-so-haggard stares but Bonnie Morgan who plays sickly Rosa is a contortionist fiend!