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The success of ‘The Blair Witch Project’ and ‘Paranormal Activity’ have proven that ‘found footage’ films made on a tiny fraction of the budget spent on mainstream Hollywood productions and with minimal marketing costs, can make a gross profit at the box office. So it is only flitting then, that we should expect a flurry of copycats trying to emulate this enormous marketing ploy. But the varying qualities of these pale imitations are highly debatable and so here we have two films that both employ the use of found footage and satanically based storylines, to scare and unnerve their audiences.
First up we have The Devil Inside: a repugnant, repulsive and redundant attempt to ill-advisedly marry the found footage style to antics of a generic exorcist film. After her mother’s incarnation for mass homicide, demure looking Isabella teams up with two amateurish Vatican priests to work out whether her mother was under the influence of a satanic possession.
The found footage style does not allow the flashes of surrealism seen in satanic spawn films like Rosemary’s Baby or the atmospheric music of the Omen. Instead the filmmakers decide to tap into the histrionics of an exorcist film whilst grossing audiences out with female bodily functions and explicit sex references: all of which thrown in for maximum shock value.
Conversely ‘The Tapes’ uses what little of its micro-budget it has to not overwhelm it’s audiences with crassness but instead expertly build up a sense of dread and doom. Its premise is simple: three dim young people explore an isolated farm in hopes of filming a sex tape, only to stumble upon a rabid satanic cult. The film makers use unpleasant omens (severed pig heads, dubious instruments, snowy backdrops, and rapid edits of grotesque images), to build up an atmosphere of claustrophobic suspense that does not necessarily warrant a decent pay off. Indeed in the last act, the scares are over before they have even begun.
Moreover there is an attempt to connect with contemporary culture (with references to Katy Perry and the ‘X-Factor’). The director has wisely chosen his actors who deliver professional and believable performances. Each speak with a thick British accents that somehow enhance their realistic performances. It is the performances that make the audience sympathise with them despite their foolishness.
Sadly in comparison this outstanding acting is not matched in the Devil Inside, which has uneven performances at best. The bumbling pair of priests talk the movie to death whilst the actresses overdo in their attempt to clearly convey the demonic nature of possessed females: instead they come off as seriously pissed off hormonal women.
Above – The Tapes Below- The Devil Inside
Ultimately The Devil Inside climaxes prematurely at the most crucial post with an ending so shockingly dashed off its scary- but for all the wrong reasons. Conversely ‘The Tapes’ denouement suggests that the true horror of what the unfortunate threesome have experienced, sends a message about the true potency of the cult. This message resonates more than the cheaply dashed off conclusion of ‘The Devil Inside’; something that turns a mediocre film into a complete joke.