JULY 21, 2015
If you roll your eyes at nine found footage movies in a row, but enjoy the 10th, does it make it all worthwhile? Inner Demons is not going to challenge Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity as the go-to example for how these movies can be effective, but it's still one of the very few of late that I didn't want to slap, so that's gotta be worth something, right? And it's even more notable when you consider how many possession-driven found footage movies there are (2nd most popular after ghosts, I think); the movie could have been doubling down on its uselessness, but it actually struck a minor chord with me. I'll be seeing The Vatican Tapes this week; if I actually like that one MORE than this I'll be fairly stunned.
Part of what makes this movie work is, thankfully, a decent reason for the cameras to exist. Sure, by the end they're using them in situations where no real human being would (and I think I spotted a few impossible cutaways) but like I've said in the past - you just have to meet us halfway on that one. Give us a solid reason for filming in the first place (many don't) and maintain that movie-logic for a while, until we're hooked into the story, and then it won't really matter as much as long as you're not going overboard (i.e. people standing there filming a zombie biting their friend's face off). This one is particularly interesting - it's presented as the footage from the crew filming an episode of an Intervention-type reality show, with their subject being a formerly sweet, good Catholic girl who started dressing goth and using drugs. As it turns out, the drug use isn't for recreation - she is shooting up in order to control the demon that's taken up residence inside her. When she is sent to rehab, and thus unable to use, her conditions actually worsen.
If anything I wish they had stuck with the intervention angle longer. Given their religious background there's a good reason for a priest to be there, and they could have had the demon dishing out dirt on her friends/family who had assembled to help her, rather than random other patients at the rehab facility. The movie's logic also takes a hit here, as there is plenty of fairly concrete proof that the girl is possessed (or SOMETHING) thanks to the facility's security cameras that give the movie much of its footage during these scenes, but no one bothers to check the tapes I guess. It's only when one of the intervention crew guys gives her a fix to control the demon that things get back on track, as she is kicked out of the rehab center and sent home in time for the big climax. The rehab scenes are fine on their own, but since the other addicts don't get much involved with the story it seems like a missed opportunity for some Bad Dreams/Dream Warriors style character moments, and they could have just locked her in her bedroom and brought a doctor in to serve the same story points.
But the attention to detail is what really makes it work. Director Seth Grossman actually has a background in reality shows (including some work on the actual Intervention), and it serves the opening well, giving us authentic reality show footage along with the behind the scenes dealings in between it (i.e. asking a subject to modify their reply and start over so it's more sound-byte worthy). Grossman did a pretty good job of assembling a believable history and backstory for its fictional characters too - old photos, acquaintances as character witnesses, etc. Horror movies in general (meaning, not just these kinds) tend to suffer from a lack of world-building, where the characters all seem to have been willed into existence moments before the movie began and seemingly have no lives beyond what they are doing in the 80 minutes we're spending with them, so it's nice when a filmmaker takes the time to make his characters a bit more fleshed out and lived in - ESPECIALLY when they're doing it under the guise of "reality".
Another boon: Lara Vosburgh is great as Carson, the infected girl. The Venn diagram of "found footage movies" and "great performances" doesn't have much of an overlap, so it's definitely another happy surprise. She's got a tough role to play - especially when she begs for a fix in order to keep the demon at bay (a literal fix!), as it's kind of heartbreaking that she'd rather risk her own body/mind than become a monster that everyone hates. Throughout the film you see these tiny glimpses of the very sweet girl that's being eroded by both the drugs and the demon, and Vosburgh handles these moments perfectly, never swinging too far into one direction. Grossman keeps the usual possession visuals to a minimum (black eyes, some minor contorting... nothing particularly eye-catching) and wisely let Vosburgh herself be the effect - damn fine choice.
I saw this movie because I was tagging it for Netflix, and my heart sank when I saw it was another FF movie. So I began just kinda keeping one eye on it while I started filling out the form (if you missed previous explanations - tagging is basically plugging in all of the data that allows their computers to make recommendations, in this case it'd probably come up if you liked Last Exorcism), but after 15-20 minutes I realized I was doing myself a disservice by being so technical with my viewing - it deserved a legitimate viewing! It's not the funnest way to watch a film, because you have to be on the alert for things that might not register if you're not actively looking for them (like drinking; if someone has a beer with their dinner it's gotta go on the form - this is not something you notice when you're watching a movie to enjoy it), and that robs you of the experience a bit. Fine for a documentary or maybe even a comedy, but horror is a different beast. Watching it that way is no different than someone pulling out their cell phone in a theater - it's distracting you with reality, and the movie can't get under your skin as effectively. In other words, the movie earned my respect, and after those 15-20 minutes I closed the tagging form and watched it like I would any movie, going back to double check whatever I may have missed later. Sure, it took longer, but I got to see a pretty decent movie as a result! And you guys got a new review, something I can't usually do for the aforementioned reasons.* Win-win.
What say you?
*That might be kinda funny though, review a movie based only on its clinical data. "The problem is, the movie offers plenty of profanity and smoking, but not nearly enough drinking or live music performances. Furthermore, the setting is nondescript..."