17 May 2012

The Devil Inside

Directed by: William Brent Bell
Written by: William Brent Bell and Matthew Peterman
Full credits at IMDb

The central tension in exorcism movies is that between religion and psychology: is she—it's always a she—possessed, or just crazy? But that's not really an issue in The Devil Inside. "How do you know when [a case of possession] is real?" one character asks an exorcist. "You know," he answers. Bam! The question here isn't whether possession is real—it's what the church is doing to fight it. Or, isn't doing! That's right, the latest exorcism movie, about a documentary film crew following a team of unorthodox spirit-expellers, is an attack on bureaucracy—but also against the cultural forces that corrupt the purity the church protects.

The movie's exorcists, operating outside the diocese, are coded as mavericks, enemies of rules and regulations who even smoke cigarettes and drink wine. But, you know, some rules—God's rules—ain't for breaking. The movie slants conservative: it's anti-education (as when one priest says "you'll learn more in five minutes of an exorcism than you will in three months of some class"), and it's anti-abortion, as one character is made to feel shame about one in her past, even though a doctor recommended it (what does science know that God doesn't?); those possessed use foul language and bleed from their vaginas, linking possession with sexual maturation. Such cultural evils are so strong they can even corrupt priests—i.e., the church.

Of course, were priests to swear, it might not be so bad; some of God's rules only apply to women. As for the guys, one of the male characters' sin is his camera: his probing, his voyeurism. He's detested by all the other characters for his dimwittedness and arrogance. (When a female character has a harrowing emotional experience, he dickishly remarks from behind a viewfinder, "great! Great stuff!") One by one, the movie's evil demon will possess, attack, shame, or kill these men and women, filmmakers and priests; its function is to call out their sins, and punish them with death. Sounds a bit like the Catholic church. Grade: C

Watch the trailer:

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