My "worst movie of all time" short list had a few vying for top honors for several years now. "Cobra" with Sly Stallone, "Godzilla" with Matthew Broderick, and all three of the latest Star Wars Films - say hello to your newest challenger - "The Devil Inside"
Before I get to deeper theological issues that would make this a must NOT see, let me say that the teenagers who packed the theater tonight wanted their money back after the film, and I fully support their protest. By the way, if you ever want to see people freak out socially, go with a priest to an exorcism movie. Completely packed theater, but I had TWO SEATS ON EACH SIDE OF ME OPEN!!!!
As far as "non-priest" film commentary, let me say that everything in the film that was scary is in the trailer. Of course there is the exorcism in the basement (do they happen anywhere else?), the contortion, the sliding across the room, all of which you knew was going to happen because of the trailer.
the film had elements of the "Blair Witch Project", but it had none of the elements that made "Blair Witch Project" scary. When I saw The "Blair Witch Project" in college, I was scared out of my mind because it had the effect of watching live footage, but this film was edited, cut, had subtitles etc. so it was first-person documentary, but it wasn't. Plus, things just continue to escalate in "Blair Witch Project", but this film has a ton of boring down time, or, as you'll see below "agenda time" where, through "interviews with the priests" the film boringly and preachily crams an anti-Catholic agenda down the audience's collective throat.
The film also had parts of Denzel Washington's "Fallen", whereby the demon can be passed from person to person like the flu. This is absolutely idiotic for one, but it also has already been done, so rehashing that plot "twist" was really terrible.
Anyway, to the deeper issues.
I'll start with the biggest problem. This is the first exorcism "film" that has somehow still managed to make the Church out to be the bad guy. The thing I talk on this blog about all the time actually seems to be the central thesis of the film - the demonic notion that there are two different "churches" - the "Bureaucracy" which is full of paper-pushing clerical ladder climbers, and the "good church" - the spiritual nest of people outside the walls of the Vatican.
As the film opens, Maria Rossi is possessed and kills three people at an exorcism. She is hospitalized in Rome, and her daughter, twenty years later, decides to investigate. While in Rome, she meets two priests who "have been ordained exorcists" (for crying out loud, have a Catholic watch the film to clean up the absolute blundering of certain basic verbage - even if it is some Catholic who hates the Church, just get somebody who knows that you don't get ordained an exorcist, that you don't wear a purple stole during baptisms, that priest collars are not actually made of mangled athletic tape, etc.) Anyway, the two priests try to help Isabella, and eventually try to perform an exorcism on her Mom.
Here is where the insane anti-institutional narrative kicks in - the two priests are like rogue Ghost-busters, because, as they note, the Vatican often leaves people out to dry by denying them exorcisms. Yes, you read that correctly, according to the film, the Vatican approves or denies EVERY application for exorcism in the world, every day!
Of course, the Church is then the arch-enemy, "denying" Isabella's mother an exorcism. This is so asinine, but just in case you aren't sure how it really works, every diocese has at least one exorcist who the bishop allows to perform exorcisms. The bishop doesn't "review applications" for exorcism, LET ALONE ROME! Unbelievable.
Throughout the movie, then, the filmmakers bombard the audience with constant commentary on how "the Church covers things up, that's what the Church always does" and "The Church is really against this, that's why I know this is right" and the same mindless babble you hear from Church haters every day.
The film contains violent and vulgar scenes during the exorcism, which, ironically, is the one thing the film gets right. If you read true accounts of exorcisms, exorcists consistently note the profanity, often sexual in nature, that the demon(s) utter - anything to distract the priest. The demon(s) in the film also accurately try to use the sins of those present to distract them, which is also a true element of exorcisms. These few truths, however, are not treated or discussed but rather simply take place without explanation.
Again, I can talk details of the film all night, but please know that I simply want my money back, and I hope to spare anyone else from being cheated out of their money.
If you want to know what exorcisms really are, read "The Rite" or "An Exorcist Tells His Story." Don't wait for Hollywood filmmaker wannabes to get it right, because it will never happen.