The Devil Inside: Godzilla versus the Smurfs

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The Devil Inside: Godzilla versus the Smurfs     A Review

devil inside  I watched The Devil Inside courtesy of Redbox for $1.23. ***SPOILER ALERT***

THE DEVIL INSIDE is a film that was directed and co-written by William Brent Bell (2006’s STAY ALIVE). The narrative style of this film is a cross between “found footage” and documentary. A 2012 January release, the story begins in 1989 as a 911 call and a blotchy videotaped police investigation of a triple murder.

A woman with a deep, weary and rather sexy voice calls into 911 saying, “I killed them all.”

“Them” means two priests and a nun, casualties, we discover, of a botched exorcism. In this case, the devil is in the details–details the script fails to share because the story jumps forward to 2009 and the woman, an American wife and mother, Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley) is now an inmate in an Italian hospital for the criminally insane.

Naturally, Maria’s daughter, Isabella, an attractive young woman in her twenties wants to know what happened to land her mother in the funny farm in a different country. Is it The Devil Inside?

Isabella, whose father died shortly after the murders, hasn’t seen or spoken to her mother in over ten years. So Isabella, camera crew in tow-of course she’s an attractive twenty-something so she’s going to have a camera crew, decides to visit Mommie Weirdest in the old country. Maria now spends her life in a white room and she draws odd pictures, including upside-down crosses etched into her skin.

Suzan Crowley, the actress playing Maria strikes me as one of those very good actresses, toiling for years in forgettable projects, and never getting a chance to show her acting chops.

That’s unfortunate for the film. What little we see of her stands in stark contrast to the rest of the principal cast. Maria growls and purrs; the coiled menace within her is the only real scare this film has to offer. Her voice brings to mind Mercedes McCambridge’s demon voice emanating from Regan, the besieged eleven-year old in THE EXORCIST. It’s insinuating and truly creepy. The young actors playing Isabella (Fernanda Andrade), the “documentary guy” (Ionut Grama), Father David, the doctor-priest (Evan Helmuth), and Father Ben, the exorcist-priest (Simon Quarterman) can’t conjure up enough scare for a campfire ghost story, let alone, The Devil Inside.

When you’re dealing with “The Devil,” or devils, you want to see him fight in the right weight category.

Pitting these four against a really big baddie supernatural is like watching the Smurfs take on Godzilla. It’s hardly a fair fight. The rather bland unfocused Isabella seems confused more than desperate. Father David likes to help out on exorcisms but only if they don’t get him in trouble. Father Ben pouts and whines about how the Church won’t condone exorcisms unless there’s super duper proof of possession–but he’s gonna do them anyway–so there, Monsignor Meanies! To your self-respecting demon, these four are as challenging as drowning a bag full of kittens.

The plot spins its wheels, going nowhere, until it just stops abruptly.

You get the feeling the production either ran out of money or film. Whatever. Regardless, the appetite for devil movies being what it is, the film’s earned over 50 million. Maybe someone made a deal with the devil after all. By the way–the weird nun on the cover is an extra–not a character in the story.

 

 Episode 50–The Devil (and my agent) made me do it.

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 Episode 50 –The Devil (and my agent) made me do it. ***Spoilers***

Netflix, Netflix, Netflix … whaat WERE you thinking? You gave Episode 50 was two and a half stars! Nooooooooooo!

episode 50  EPISODE 50, a 2011 release, has 2.5 stars from the Netflix fairy.

This 2011 “offering,” written and directed by Joe and Tess Smalley begins benignly enough with yet another “found footage” paranormal premise. This time it’s for a paranormal reality (think Ghost Hunters) show–only these guys are out to show us the smoke, mirrors and faulty wiring that panic folks into thinking their places are haunted. These dudes (and one dewy-eyed dudette) are out to shine a light on superstition and vivid imaginations.

Their purpose is to put this poppycock silliness to rest so that “real science” will get more attention.

When a dying rich guy who fears going to hell offers them the chance to investigate the West Virginia Lunatic Asylum, the site of several unexplained and gruesome deaths, they see “Season Finale” or “Episode 50!!” So they load up the van and head for West Virginey–visions of Emmys dancing in their heads.

Trouble (along with a ghost in the window) arises when they encounter a rival group called “ASK” (don’t ask) a trio of God-fearing folks from UCLA.

ASK is convinced that the Devil is real. So of course the two groups start circling each other like the Sharks and the Jets until the dewy eyed dudette calls a halt while her counter-part in the ASK group, a rather mousy medium looks panicked at the thought of picking up whatever signals the asylum is beaming. They agree to work together–or rather the TV show crew will work and the church people will take notes.

The rest of Episode 50 devolves from the formatted “Ghost Hunters” to a plot mess more complicated than three seasons of “Dark Shadows.”

Towards the middle of the film we’re treated to music supporting the “found footage” and ghosts start staggering, crawling on the ceiling, and locking people in rooms that just happen to contain the files that help the investigators to figure out that it’s just one bad guy-ghost (a serial-murderer, what a surprise!) who is holding all the spirits there and not allowing them to “go into the light children.” There’s a gate to hell and it’s not even at the hospital; it’s in an old prison. And so off they go to the old pokey. Right.

My favorite line was “I never pay attention to crap like ‘The Exorcist.'” Oh reeeally?

You mean that ole’ black magic movie? This masterpiece ends with a show-down–mano vs cloven hoof as the “Devil’ (the Devil looks like a bare-chested guy with a mean set of horns) guarding an old gate with flames, etc. The big bad Devil is vanquished by the skeptic TV guy wielding a crucifix (after the church guy dies heroically). Priceless. Netflix—how about half a star?

The House at the End of the Street: resting on a tired plot

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The House at the End of the Street: resting on a tired plot–A Review  ***Major Spoiler Alert!***

House I doubt it will be long before The House at the End of the Street sinks into the depths of Netflix one point five stardom.Directed by Mark Tonderal (Hush) with story by Jonathan Mostow (Terminator 3 and U-571) and screenplay by David Loucka (Dream House) The House at the End of the Street offers a worthy cast headed by Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Shue and Gil Bellows.

The House at the End of the Street shows its cards in the first scene where it’s night and a woman hears a bump.

She rises from her bed and we see a figure and a mop of blond hair covering the face of whoever made the bump. One determined blue eye peers out from the mop as a hand takes a long sharp knife from the kitchen. Right before the woman encounters the business end of the knife, we see the mad determined gleam in the blue eye. Despite the efforts of all involved, we also see part of a face that could use just a smidge more estrogen. The woman says, “Carrie Anne? What are you . . .” We assume Carrie Anne, from her toned bicep, must be working out. Then it’s shower curtains as Carrie Anne’s knife meets the woman’s kidney.

Soon, the woman’s waiting-in-bed husband becomes victim number two. Okay let’s jump ahead.

A woman (Elizabeth Shue) and her daughter (Jennifer Lawrence) move into  The House at the End of the Street.Sitting in a rustic area with trees and a hint of wilderness, this prime real estate is a steal because of property values dropping in the neighborhood.

The crime of the notorious Carrie Ann, previous tenant of The House at the End of the Street, refuses to be forgotten.

They never found her, you see. Now her brother (Max Theriot) lives there alone. The woman and her daughter are at odds. There’s been a divorce and rather than the absent rock musician father, the woman, a doctor, has custody of the daughter. Of course there’s lots of fighting and predictably, the misunderstood neighborhood boy living alone becomes the center of it all. The girl can’t resist the tortured blue eyes of her studly handsome neighbor, who wasn’t around when the murders happened. He went to live with an aunt when he was seven, you see. Now, all he wants to do is fix the place up and sell it, he tells her.

He doesn’t tell her about his sister, Carrie Anne. By the way, Carrie Anne is tied up in the cellar!

They were twins, and he feels responsible for her. Unfortunately, crazy Carrie Anne manages to get away and he ends up chasing her down and killing her. In the meantime, the neighbor girl decides to seduce the tortured but cute neighbor, much to the distress of her mother and annoyance of various high school bullies, who make it their business to drive him out by harassing him. Poor soul, he’s all alone now that Carrie Anne’s gone. Or is she?

***Read no more if  you plan to see The House at the End of the Street and don’t like spoilers.***

I kept waiting for something to surprise me in this pre-fab project.

The lack of originality had me shaking my head as we discover that those neighborhood punks had the right idea. Lonely boy finds another girl to be his crazy sister and it’s official: he was Carrie Anne when the murders occurred. It turns out that his mom and dad were so angry when the real Carrie Anne fell off her swing and died, that they forced him to take her place. Fed up dealing with puberty as a girl, he killed them. Understandable. Predictably, neighbor girl figures his secret out and she and mom have to fight him off. The movie ends with him on Thorazine as he stares glassy-blue-eyed at a jigsaw puzzle.

Young Mr. Theriot is playing Norman Bates in a TV production, Bates Hotel. Ah good plan.

For the life of me, I’ll never understand how projects like this are made and released while more worthy scripts are met with indifference. The plot and characters were indifferently written and trite. The actors, including Mr. Theriot will appear in more deserving projects. And if the writers and director do another one of these clunkers, I hope the ghost of Alfred Hitchcock haunts them, hopefully inspiring more original fare.

 

Cloud Atlas: a movie that connects the drops.

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Cloud Atlas: a movie that connects the drops. A Review     ***Spoilers***

Before you read this, I recommend that you read my review of the book, Cloud Atlas.

 

Images from the movie, "Cloud Atlas"

Cover for “Cloud Atlas,” the movie

Whether or not you enjoyed reading Cloud Atlas the book, (I enjoyed some of it but I still wanted to throw it against a wall at the end) I believe most people will enjoy at least parts of the movie without wanting to toss Tom Hanks off a highrise.

I did not go into see this movie with high expectations.

Okay, here it is–my reason for not expecting much: I hated The MatrixCloud Atlas was co-directed (with German director Tom Twyker who did Run, Lola, Run, a movie I remember liking ) and co-written by the Wachowskis who gave us The Matrix. Go ahead and hate me. Virtual reality stories hold special interest for me (see my The Thirteenth Floor review ).

I found The Matrix pretentious, sophomoric and even with a suspension of disbelief, not credible.

There’s no way anyone would look that buff after spending a lifetime in a pod. Aliens using us to power their alien stuff didn’t make sense. We wouldn’t be cost effective. Plus the long coats, the dippy mysticism and all the martial arts got on my nerves. I could go on but it won’t convince anyone who loved The Matrix. Another thing, I should disclose that I briefly worked on casting The Matrix sequel (nothing fancy–just set up auditions for the secret service guys and you’d have thought we were guarding the secrets of the universe rather than a few pages of barely there script).

Regardless, in my opinion, Cloud Atlas the movie is better than Cloud Atlas the book.

The problems that I had with the book centered on Mitchell’s failure to adequately connect the six stories. I felt like Mitchell the writer was showing off. I wanted more than he gave in terms of connecting the stories. It was all icing and very little cake. Then those last two pages of “The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing,” the first and last story. They were the last frickin’ frackin’ two pages of the novel, and might as well have started with “So you see boys and girls . . .”

Cloud Atlas the movie was able to stitch the stories together.

Movies have more options in terms of pacing, plus visual and audio devices, something a novel lacks. As small a thing as a shiny blue button on a 1930’s vest that becomes a beautiful stone prized by a goat herder helped me connect. The music helped. Casting the same actors in different stories helped a lot and most of all, the editing, which blended the parts of each story, pacing them all to build and crest like music wove the narratives into a satisfying ending, an ending that differed from the book. The stories had been simplified, characters pared and the plots crafted to suit the film and it helped.

Cloud Atlas, the film, conveyed the message, the universal theme that Mitchell meant for us to discover in his novel.

I felt Mitchell said it rather than showed it. The movie, on the other hand, did what movies do best. It made us feel it so that we could think it. The reviews I’ve read of this film have been mixed. At three hours, it is very long. All I can say is that I liked it, and so did the others in the audience. There was applause at the end, and I doubt many had read the book. It didn’t matter. They felt it; so did I, shiny blue buttons and all.