No horror trope enjoys more built-in melodrama than possession, with all those opportunities for holy water-seared flesh, unnaturally bent limbs, projectile bodily fluids and and crucifix conflagrations, to say nothing of all the juicy histrionic dogma spit by the embattled men of the cloth. Done right, a good exorcism movie shouts out the spirit of William Friedkin's '73 classic, or at least cracks some good jokes in the process (see 2010's The Last Exorcism). Done poorly, you end up with a dissatisfying entry like William Brent Bell's pile of faux found footage, a snitty, too-trendy flick that doesn't seem concerned with entertaining an audience begging to be frightened.
The Devil Inside follows the European trip of Isabella (Fernanda Andrade), a young American visiting her mother Maria (Suzan Crowley) for the first time since she relocated to Italy. This is no Roman holiday: Momma's been locked in an asylum since brutally murdering three clergy members stateside, resulting in a not-guilty insanity verdict. Skeptical documentarian (Ionut Grama) in tow, Isabella soon recruits Ben and David (Simon Quarterman and Evan Helmuth), younghipcool rogue exorcists who agree to try their hand at freeing Maria from the chains that bind her. Bell does manage to crank out a few thick-tension scenes, but is so focused on his characters' irrelevant emotional baggage that he forgets foul-mouthed demons are more interesting than neurotic humans. A lazy, dissatisfying ending is the cruddy cherry on top.