Director William Brent Bell and screenwriter Mathew Peterman, whose found-footage debut The Devil Inside defied a 6% Rotten Tomatoes rating to earn nearly $35 million last weekend, are already set to partner again, Deadline.com reports. Details on the as-yet-untitled project are scant, save for a plot that is said to involved the Vatican. The film will reportedly be shot in the same pseudo-documentary style as The Devil Inside, and is set to begin production this April in Romania, the latest trendy Eastern European destination for budget conscious productions.
The opening credits of the found-footage excretion The Devil Inside include a helpful disclaimer advising us that the Vatican “did not endorse this film nor aid in its completion ” just in case we might be inclined to believe the Holy See were in the business of making schlocky horror flicks. One’s heart goes out to Satan whose involvement in the film is pretty clearly implied by the title but who received no such disclaimer. Even he deserves better than to be associated with this dreck.
The pseudo-doc-style story centers on a young girl Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade) whose mother Maria (Suzan Crowley) murdered three people twenty years prior during what was later revealed to be an exorcism gone awry. Seeking to learn more about the tragedy that consumed her mother Isabella travels to Italy where Maria is currently housed in a Vatican-run mental hospital. The doctors prove frustratingly insensitive to her mother’s affliction causing Isabella to see out a pair of young renegade exorcists (Simon Quarterman and Evan Helmuth) for help.
Maria is one creepy bird a frazzled cat-lady whose eyes blaze with penetrating high-octane craziness even under heaviest of sedation. An early scene in which Isabella meets with her near-catatonic mother and gently tries to ascertain whether her insanity is of the conventional or demonically-inspired variety oozes tension as we wait for her whispered ramblings to explode into full-on Satanic mania. It’s a terrifically fraught scene by far the best in the film and sadly the only point in which we ever come close to being scared.
The film proffers a variety of different narrative threads and chooses to resolve none of them. What happened to the English priest’s uncle or Isabella’s baby? And what of that poor possessed gal with the hemorrhaging vagina? Was she ever able to get that under control? God only knows. Even crazy-eyes Maria the film’s MVP makes an all-too-hasty exit never to be hear from again after a half-baked exorcism attempt.
Director/co-writer William Brent Bell’s clear aim is to mimic the wildly successful Paranormal Activity films but he ignores the found-footage standard-bearer’s most important precept which is to keep the story simple rely as little on the “actors” as possible and pile on the cheap scares one after another. Instead we’re handed an abundance of character details we never asked for and which never really amount to anything save for some choice over-acting in the third act when the devil’s machinations turn everyone against each other. The film devolves into a kind of exorcism-themed Real World episode replete with “confessionals” in which the characters tearfully air their frustrations -- as if we gave a damn. Perhaps it’s a good thing we don’t because The Devil Inside concludes with what might be the least-satisfying horror ending in a decade.
A group gets together for the funeral of a friend--but this is no Big Chill. The friends have goofy nicknames--Swink (Frankie Muniz) Loomis (Milo Ventimiglia) October (Sophia Bush) Hutch (Jon Foster) Fidget (Billy Louviere) Abigail (Samaire Armstrong) and Phineas (Jimmi Simpson)--and they're all gaming freaks. They notice that their pal’s death may have some bizarre connection to a game he was playing at the time so they play the reality-like game about a countess who kills schoolgirls. And one by one they too drop dead--dying in creepy and uncanny ways very similar to how they die in game. It doesn't matter how well they play it's not going to keep them away from the real-life version of the Blood Countess (Maria Kalinina) and the ghosts of the girls she's killed. How loud can an actress scream? Well the screams that come from intense and beautiful blonde Armstrong (HBO’s Entourage) as Abigail are sure to send chills up and down anyone's spine. She exhibits pure fear when witnessing how the game she plays becomes reality in front of her. Muniz (TV’s Malcolm in the Middle) seems to look befuddled and wide-eyed much like he has done throughout his TV career. Simpson (D.E.B.S.) is a delightful "whatever"-like slacker and Foster (Door in the Floor) provides the necessary hunk factor. Adam Goldberg (Saving Private Ryan) as the sensible Miller is the best actor of the bunch but he unfortunately doesn't last too long in the film (and no that's not really a spoiler since it's all in the trailers too.) Director William Brent Bell and his longtime friend and writing partner Matthew Peterman don't base Stay Alive on an actual video game but instead create a film around a game that they would like to play. It takes players through a gothic house in New Orleans where the Blood Countess has tortured schoolgirls and used their blood to keep her young. Opening doors throughout the house reveals blood-soaked rooms shackles and chains scary white-faced ghosts creatures that walk on the ceiling and dead ends. Then the Countess herself materializes as a kind of Freddy Krueger that snatches kids and kills them in the same gruesome ways their characters die in the game. Unfortunately Stay Alive is a PG-13 rating so obviously the blood and guts aren’t too intense--and that may be part of the problem. Die-hard genre fans are going to want more.