The Devil Inside (film)

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The Devil Inside
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWilliam Brent Bell
Written byWilliam Brent Bell
Matthew Peterman
Produced byMatthew Peterman
Morris Paulson
StarringFernanda Andrade
Simon Quarterman
Evan Helmuth
CinematographyGonzalo Amat
Edited byTimothy Mirkovich
William Brent Bell
Music byBrett Detar
Ben Romans
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • January 6, 2012 (2012-01-06)
Running time
83 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$1 million[2]
Box office$101.8 million[2]

The Devil Inside is a 2012 American found footage supernatural horror film directed by William Brent Bell and written by Bell and Matthew Peterman. It is a documentary-style film about a woman who becomes involved in a series of exorcisms during her quest to determine what happened to her mother, a woman who murdered three people as a result of being possessed by a demon. Produced by Peterman and Morris Paulson,[3] the film stars Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman, Evan Helmuth, and Suzan Crowley, and was released theatrically on January 6, 2012.

Produced on a low budget of $1 million, the film was a commercial success and grossed $101.8 million, but it was panned by critics and audiences. The film topped the US box office on its opening weekend, yet dropped drastically in the second week, before disappearing completely from the box office top ten.[4]


On October 30, 1989, Maria Rossi committed a triple murder during an exorcism performed on her. The Catholic Church became involved, and she has since been in a Catholic psychiatric hospital in Rome. Her daughter, Isabella, learned of the murders from her father, who died three days after telling her.

Twenty years later, Isabella is in the process of filming a documentary with filmmaker Michael Schaefer about exorcisms and, to find out more about her mother, she visits Maria in Rome and meets two priests, Ben Rawlings and David Keane. Maria speaks in different accents and soils herself while screaming in an unidentified language. She has inverted crosses carved into her arms and her bottom lip and tells Isabella that killing a child is against God's will. Isabella had an abortion years ago and her mother had no way of knowing that—a sign that showed possible possession. David and Ben take her on an unsanctioned exorcism performed on Rosalita, a young woman. Rosalita calls Isabella by her name, despite not knowing her, and attacks the crew. Eventually, they get her under control.

During an exorcism on Maria, she mentions knowing what Ben did in the past and transfers demons to David and Isabella. The process is unsuccessful. The group presents evidence to the Church. Ben finds that there are four different demons speaking in unison. While performing an immersion baptism at church, David mutters lines from the Bible and starts forcefully submerging the baby in the holy water before passing out.

Soon after, Ben finds David at home with blood all over his forearms, much the way Maria was. The police arrive, and David acquires an officer's handgun. Ben tells him to fight it, but he begins to weep, reciting the Lord's Prayer, and forgets the last few words. He then shoots himself. Isabella begins having a seizure.

Ben and Michael take her to the hospital, where Isabella slashes a nurse's throat. Ben comes to the realization that Isabella is possessed. Ben and Michael leave with her in a car, heading to get help for an exorcism. Isabella tries to strangle Michael and breathes into his mouth. He instantly shows signs of possession, accelerating into oncoming traffic. The car collides, killing Ben and Michael in the process, while Isabella is gone.

A title card is shown informing that the case of the Rossi family is still unresolved and directing viewers to a website "for more information on the ongoing investigation".[a]



The genesis of the film happened in 2005, as writer Matthew Peterman read about the Vatican's school of exorcism and approached director William Brent Bell on exploiting that. The duo wrote a traditional script, however they eventually, according to Peterman "got frustrated with that process" so they rewrote to a mockumentary style following a suggestion from producer Morris Paulson.[7]

Principal photography began in 2010 in several locations, including Bucharest (Romania), Rome (Italy) and Vatican City. The film is of the "found footage" genre, and so is shot in documentary style despite being fictional. Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Steven Schneider took the movie to Paramount Pictures,[3][8] who ultimately produced it through their low-budget company Insurge Pictures, who acquired the film as their first release hoping it would replicate the success of Paranormal Activity.[3]


The film was not screened for critics,[9] and was subsequently almost universally called one of the worst horror films ever made. It received an F from CinemaScore, which tracks audience reaction.[10] It topped the box office its opening weekend, the first after the New Year's Day holiday, displacing Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, which had held that position for three straight weeks.[4] At the time, it was the third-best January opening weekend after Cloverfield and the Star Wars special edition.[11] In its second weekend, the film dropped 76.2%, which was the largest second weekend drop for a film since Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience (77.4%) in early 2009.[12]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 6% based on reviews from 90 critics, with an average rating of 3.10/10. The site's consensus is: "The Devil Inside is a cheap, choppy unscary mess, featuring one of the worst endings in recent memory."[13] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 18 out of 100 based on reviews from 19 critics, indicating "overwhelming dislike".[14] Peter Howell of the Toronto Star wrote that the film was a candidate for the worst film of 2012.[15] Stephen Whitty of The Star-Ledger wrote that "after The Blair Witch Project got by with sticks and stones and offscreen noises, filmmakers started thinking they didn't have to show anything. Well, no. It's better when you don't show too much – but if your story is about the supernatural, eventually you're going to have to come up with something. The Devil Inside can’t."[16] Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune felt that the film "joins a long, woozy-camera parade of found-footage scare pictures, among them The Blair Witch Project, the Paranormal Activity films and certain wedding videos that won't go away."[17] Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter stated that the film "proves as scary and unsettling as a slab of devil's food cake – only considerably less satisfying.[18] The New York Times reviewer Manohla Dargis had a positive response to Suzan Crowley's acting and the scenes where the possessed is played by a contortionist, but considered that The Devil Inside was another foray into "a tediously exhausted subgenre that was already creatively tapped out when The Blair Witch Project spooked audiences more than a decade ago."[19]

The film's ending, in particular, came under heavy criticism. "Is it the worst movie ending of all time?" David Haglund asked in Slate, citing various negative audience reaction to that aspect of the film online. "What upset them even more than its abruptness", he suggested, "was the title immediately following it that urged audiences to visit a website to learn more. "[It's] a marketing twist that makes audiences feel taken advantage of," said Haglund.[4] The writers defended themselves by saying that they knew the unconventional closure would draw criticism, but "felt authentic to us" as according to co-writer Matthew Peterman, "Sometimes real life doesn't follow a perfect structure. Things aren't always wrapped up and resolved when or how you'd like them to be. All of us enjoyed leaving things open ended. We thought it was visceral, we thought it was unique."[20] Audiences then flooded the Internet with videos of furious reactions, and demanding refunds from Paramount Pictures. Some pointed out the website link being the worst addition, as they felt they paid admission to an incomplete film, and were rewarded with an ending website title card that did not work from opening night to now. Director William Brent Bell added that the title card directing to a website was added by Paramount, given they "thought it was kind of cool to continue the story on this website".[7]

Besides the preponderance of negative reviews, there were a few critics who gave the film a positive review. Steve Barton of Dread Central stated, "The Devil Inside is home to moments that will shock, scare, disturb, and leave you gasping. It's a trip to the dark side that's well worth taking."[21] Joe Leydon of Variety wrote that the film "generates a fair amount of suspense during sizable swaths of its familiar but serviceable exorcism-centric scenario."[22]


The film's commercial success despite negative critical and audience reaction made it one of several that led studios to reconsider their longtime practice of confining horror films to the dump months and Halloween season. "For years, horror movies made $19–20 million in a January release. They would take the weekend and that would be it," C. Robert Cargill of Ain't It Cool News told "But The Devil Inside proved that even in our worst dumping ground, you can appeal to a market that won't see movies, and in fact they'll throw money at a terrible movie if it looks like it's good. I mean, $35 million is sick money for an opening weekend for a film that cost, what, $250,000?"[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The website displayed,, has been defunct since 2013.[5] An archived version of the site as it appeared on the film's U.S. release date of January 6, 2012, is still available through the Wayback Machine.[6]


  1. ^ "THE DEVIL INSIDE (15)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 2012-10-10.
  2. ^ a b The Devil Inside (2012). Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on April 24, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c Kit, Borys (February 3, 2011). "Paramount Bets 'The Devil Inside' Is Its Next 'Paranormal Activity'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
  4. ^ a b c Haglund, David (January 9, 2012). "Does The Devil Inside Have the Worst Ending in Movie History?". Slate. Retrieved January 12, 2012.
  5. ^ "The Rossi Files - 404 Not Found". Paramount Pictures. Archived from the original on March 2, 2013. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
  6. ^ "the rossi files - be part of the ongoing investigation". Paramount Pictures. Archived from the original on January 6, 2012. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
  7. ^ a b (Interview) 'The Devil Inside' Filmmakers Speak On Low Budget Horror & Bold Finales!
  8. ^ Goldstein, Gregg (April 23, 2011). "Big players eye more low-budget fare". Variety. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
  9. ^ Ryan, Tim. "Critics Consensus: Guess The Devil Inside's Tomatometer". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  10. ^ Dowd, A. A.; Rife, Katie (April 3, 2020). "Is an "F" from CinemaScore Actually a Good Thing? Our Critics Weigh In". The A.V. Club. Retrieved April 3, 2020.
  11. ^ "Top Opening Weekends by Month—January". Box Office Mojo. 2014. Retrieved January 8, 2014.
  12. ^ Ray Subers (January 15, 2012). "Weekend Report: 'Contraband' Hijacks MLK Weekend". Box Office Mojo.
  13. ^ "The Devil Inside". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 1, 2022.
  14. ^ "The Devil Inside". Metacritic.
  15. ^ Howell, Peter (January 5, 2012). "The Devil Inside: The Devil didn't do it". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on January 8, 2012. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
  16. ^ Witty, Stephen (January 6, 2012). "'The Devil Inside' review: It came from Hell". Retrieved January 6, 2012.
  17. ^ Phillips, Michael (January 6, 2012). "'The Devil Inside': Don't blame the pope for this one – 1 star". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
  18. ^ Rechtshaffen, Michael (January 6, 2012). "The Devil Inside: Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
  19. ^ Dargis, Manohla (January 6, 2012). "In Rome, Bending Joints but Limiting the Budget". The New York Times. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
  20. ^ 'The Devil Inside' Director Defends the Movie's Ending
  21. ^ Barton, Steve (5 January 2012). "The Devil Inside (2012)". Dread Central. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
  22. ^ Leydon, Joe (January 6, 2012). "Variety reviews The Devil Inside". Variety. Archived from the original on January 16, 2012. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
  23. ^ Salisbury, Brian (February 23, 2013). "Why Oscar Season is Hollywood's Bad Movie Dumping Ground". Retrieved December 20, 2013.

External links[edit]