The Devil Inside: Godzilla versus the Smurfs

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A Review

***SPOILER ALERT***

devil inside  I watched this movie, courtesy of Redbox for $1.23. THE DEVIL INSIDE is a film 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.

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.

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.

 

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

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A Movie Review

*** Major Spoiler Alert!***

House I doubt it will be long before this movie 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) “House” 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 a big house.

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 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, 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 movie 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 worthy 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.

 

Let Us Prey: The God Squad

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A Review of Let Us Prey

***spoilers***

Cover Image from Let Us Prey

Let Us Prey cover image from IMDB

  Let Us Prey is a 2014 film by director Brian O’Malley (first feature film) and writers Fiona Watson and David Cairns (first feature). Starring Liam Cunningham (Titanic, Game of Thrones) as Six, Let Us Prey, is a blood-drenched story about the wages of sin.

As I watched this movie, I remembered Frailty

Frailty is a 2002 American movie starring Bill Paxton (and oh how he is missed) and Matthew McConaughey. In Frailty, Paxton played Meiks, a single father with two sons. Meiks has a list of names, given to him, he claims, by God. These people are demons, he assures his boys. His sons are enlisted to help him as he kidnaps and kills, crossing names off his list. One son suffers doubts as seemingly innocent people are killed. Later, we discover that father knows best as the crimes of each “victim” are revealed. In Let Us Prey,” “Six” (Liam Cunningham), like Meiks, has a battered notebook listing names of the guilty.  Six will exact payment from those who murder and are cruel in the name of justice, self-hate and cowardice.

The film begins with the rolling waves of an angry sea. 

Soon, we’re on a deserted highway leading to a small Scottish town where a woman wakes from a nightmare. After rising, she puts on a police uniform. Rachael Heggie (Pollyanna McIntosh—The Walking Dead) is the newest member of the town’s police force, which includes Sergeant Macready and officers Jennifer Mundie and Jack Warnock. 

It’s night as Heggie walks to work. The streets are deserted except for a man standing in the middle of the road. A car suddenly appears and hits him. The unrepentant driver, a young punk named Caesar, stops, but there’s no trace of the victim. Heggie cuffs Caesar and delivers him to Sergeant Macready who greets Caesar with a punch to his insolent gut.

Heggie radios Mundie and Warnock who are busy having sex in the squad car. Heggie tells them to find the victim. When they don’t find him, they report back to the station where Caesar waits in a cell across from Mulvey, a schoolteacher arrested for beating his wife.

Unlike Frailty, there is no question of innocence in Six’s baleful stare.

Then the “victim” walks into the station. His name is Six, he tells them, and there are seven names in his book of to-dos for tonight. From his fingerprints, Macready and Heggie discover that Six is an old man, much older than he appears, and his records say that Six died years ago.  The officers call in Dr. Hume to examine the victim. As the doctor takes a look at him, Six murmurs something. Hume gasps, saying, “You know!!” Without warning, Hume attacks Six. This results in Hume’s joining the teacher and the punk in the pokey.

The eerie tone of this movie, with its isolated streets and empty shops, reminded me of The Twilight Zone.

As the evening progresses, with the flick of a match, the sins of each character are revealed. Six calls each sinner to account. The guilty panic and turn on each other until only a crazed Macready and Heggie are left.  We learn that as a little girl, Heggie was the victim of a child predator. Unlike The Twilight Zone, the violence is graphic and bloody,  reflecting Six’s humorless character, whose disagreement with someone in power he tells them, landed him this gig.

His Old Testament stare is enough to make you think twice about leaving the cap off the toothpaste. Despite the violence, Heggie has kept to the moral high ground. So what’s her sin? 

“You’ve evolved,” Six explains after dispatching Macready to Hell. The others are new to Hell, he confides, and in for a rough ride. When it comes to Hell, Heggie is a frequent flyer and eligible for an upgrade. Six’s explanation was confusing; I thought we were in Old Testament territory, not Buddhist reincarnation land.

This highly stylized film practices what Six seeks to punish—gratuitous violence.

“I’m lonely,” Six tells Heggie; would she like to be his companion? He entices her with promises of raining hellfire on the worst of humanity. The thought of being on the God Squad, playing Hutch to Six’s Starsky makes Heggie smile.

They kiss, and after all that blood and all those body parts, the kiss seemed a little out of place. Even so, I can think of worse things than an eternity with Liam Cunningham; however, if I were Heggie, I’d remember to always put the cap back on the toothpaste.