Buried somewhere within the abysmal new faux-documentary The Devil Inside lies a zany ’80s-style lowbrow comedy about competition between renegade exorcist slobs and hoity-toity rule-following exorcist snobs at the Vatican Exorcism School. The hilariously convoluted thriller contains all the elements for a wacky parody of exorcism movies, except a sense of humor about itself: The Devil Inside never acknowledges its innate ridiculousness, so the laughs are unintentional.
Fernanda Andrade stars as a traumatized young woman whose mother has been held in a Catholic mental hospital in Rome since the late 1980s, after killing three people during an unsuccessful attempt to rid her of unsightly demons. With a camera crew in tow, a now grown-up Andrade travels to Italy to look for answers behind her mother’s curious condition. While sitting in at Exorcism School, Andrade befriends two people who perform unauthorized exorcisms in their spare time, and—like everyone in The Devil Inside—are happy to have a fragile, possibly mentally ill woman and a camera crew following them around as they perform their secret, private, life-and-death work. Andrade seemingly has free rein over all of Italy; nobody, for example, thinks twice about granting her unsupervised visits with her deeply unhinged, potentially violent mother.
The Devil Inside is considerate enough to highlight its shortcomings in dialogue: Andrade underlines one of the script’s main flaws when she admits her mother’s botched exorcism and her response to it completely define her as a person. And it’s difficult to argue with the director of this supposed documentary when he frets that he’s devolved into an obnoxious asshole with a camera. The Devil Inside keeps adding elements and plot points it has no interest in resolving: It doesn’t build to a close so much as it gives up unexpectedly, with a shockingly abrupt ending. The Devil Inside opens with the exquisitely unnecessary information that the Vatican did not endorse the film, nor aid in its making. The filmmakers flatter themselves unnecessarily if they imagine this schlock is worthy of the Church’s consideration, let alone cause for close collaboration. The Catholic Church was wise to want nothing to do with The Devil Inside. Everyone else should follow suit.