Last night, I attended a screening of 'The Devil Inside.' A screening that involved a DJ. It was a mostly miserable experience. That is, until the audience, whose members had received free tickets, started openly booing the movie after it ended. That part was fascinating. I've never seen anything quite like that before. Matt Singer -- from IFC, Sundance Channel and Time Out New York – was also there. (You can read his review here.) The experience was so unusual that we decided an obsessive discussion was in order. (Spoiler alert, obviously)
Mike Ryan: Were you as miserable as I was?
Matt Singer: Not at all. I thought it started off OK, and when it got bad it got really bad, like hilarious bad.
Mike: OK, but how much of DJ Juanyto's performance did you see?
Matt: I got there at like 7:15. But then I was talking with a colleague and generally ignored DJ Juanyto. My favorite part was when he got the crowd "hyped" up by playing the music from 'Halloween.' Isn't that cheating?
Mike: I remember him specifically saying, "This is the scariest music that's ever been created."
Matt: I also enjoyed when he played the theme from 'The Twilight Zone' and it appeared that none of the teenagers in the crowd had any idea what it was.
Mike: No, they didn't. He might as well have said, "And here's one from The Hooters!" He would have gotten the same reaction. What did you find hilarious bad?
Matt: God, there was a lot. I think the funniest thing was just how open everyone was to the idea of filming these exorcisms. In the film, the priests talk about how the church has really clamped down on exorcisms since 1999. They're shying away from them and making them very difficult to perform. And so these rogue priests are performing them without consent. They say they could get in a lot of trouble if anyone ever found out. So why document everything?!?
"We can't let anyone know what we're doing!"
"Wait, am I in focus?"
They also walk into a class on exorcism in the Vatican and film that. Surprisingly lax security at the Vatican!
Mike: Well, to be fair, the Vatican didn't endorse the film.
Matt: That's hilarious, too!
Mike: But the Vatican gave everyone access to the facilities.
Matt: The opening title card is "The Vatican did not endorse this movie." Huge relief.
Mike: I feel every movie should start with that disclaimer. 'Joyful Noise': The Vatican did not endorse this movie.
Matt: It would have been funnier if the Vatican HAD endorsed the film, given the fact that most of the second act involves characters complaining about the bureaucracy of the church. Like the movie was written by an exorcist who lost his job, or something. And this was his way of getting back at his employer.
Another example of hilarity: The priests in the movie explain the concept of multiple demonic possession -- one person getting possessed by several demons --on repeat occasions. And then they explain how there can be transference during exorcisms involving multiple demonic possession. Anyone who has ever seen any movie ever knows: there will be multiple demonic possession and there will also be transference.
And yet when it happens, the priests -- the people who explained the concept in the first place -- are totally at a loss. When one of the priests gets possessed, someone actually says "It's like he was possessed!"
Mike: "Why would he attempt to drown a baby? That's SO unlike him?"
Matt: Heheheh. That's at a baptism somewhere in Rome or the Vatican. So why is the whole service in English?
Mike: Right! Were the locals thinking, in Italian, "Excuse me, I have no idea what you just said. Is my baby baptized or not?"
Matt: Here's a question I have Mike: Are exorcisms actually all that interesting? 'The Exorcist' is a great movie. I even liked 'The Last Exorcism,' a much better found footage horror movie from last year. Or a couple years ago.
Mike: I liked 'The Last Exorcism,' too.
Matt: But the actual act of exorcism itself is not very cinematic. It's mostly a guy screaming and yelling at a woman while she writhes on a bed.
Mike: Right. I would say it's on the same level of watching someone get a prostate exam.
Matt: My prostate exams don't usually involve that much screaming. But I see your point. I don't understand how what they're saying corresponds to the patient, and why some prayers and chants work sometimes and don't other times. It just strikes me that the interesting thing about exorcisms is the idea that demons might actually exist and possess us. Not the actual exorcisms themselves.
Mike: And WHY do demons posses people that are locked away?
Matt: Right. And how do they choose who to possess and why? This movie doesn't ask those questions, it just assumes the exorcisms are why we go and so it has like six exorcisms in 30 minutes.
Mike: Why not possess famous people?
Matt: Good question.
Mike: Wouldn't that let a demon spread its message of hate?
Matt: If I were a demon, I'd totally possess Brad Pitt. It'd be more fun than possessing a schlumpy suburban housewife from Connecticut.
Mike: So here's the question: Are demons stupid?
Matt: They are in this movie. But everyone in this movie is stupid. Like the priests, who explain how transference works and then can't believe it when it happens. Or the doctor who lets them perform an illegal exorcism in his hospital right under his nose.
Mike: And are all demons homophobic, or is it just this one?
Matt: What did this demon do that was homophobic?
Mike: It used a homophobic slur. The same one that Brett Ratner used.
Matt: Ah, yes. Are you implying Brett Ratner might be possessed by a demon?
Mike: That would explain 'Tower Heist.'
Mike: OK, the ending. We were talking about this before, but I've never seen an audience turn like that. What is so bad about this ending that caused that reaction?
Matt: It is one of the most anticlimactic endings I've seen in a long time. After you've seen people levitate and contort and climb walls and break their bodies, it is kind of a letdown when the movie ends in a [SPOILER ALERT] car crash.
Matt: Also: I never attended the Vatican School for Exorcists. But I'm pretty sure when someone is possessed, putting her in the back seat of a car with no restraints is not a good idea.
Mike: Statistically, the cause of most deaths.
Matt: Like, there's no way that ends well. They didn't even buckle her seatbelt!
Mike: To be fair, they weren't done with the class. They most likely had yet to get to "transportation of a possessed person."
Matt: So there's another lesson: Don't let a drop-out perform your exorcism. I did appreciate the fact that as they drag the latest possessed person into that car, the priest screams "WE HAVE TO END THIS!" as if tacitly acknowledging that the filmmakers have no idea how to wrap things up but they know they have to somehow.
Mike: Maybe they did Google "what causes the most deaths statistically," which led them to "accidents." And they just went with that?
Matt: I am surprised a car crash can kill a demon. Thank god demons have that one weakness. Car crashes.
Mike: We don't know that for sure.
Matt: How did they kill demons before they invented cars?
Matt: Did Henry Ford create a car so he could kill a demon in it?
Mike: I'd see that movie.
Matt: "HENRY FORD: THE FIRST EXORCIST. Coming next January from some desperate film studio!"
Mike: I'd REALLY see that movie. "Get her in the car!" "What's that?"
Matt: I only go if DJ Juanyto is there. "Are you really curing this woman, or are you just killing her in a car crash?" "Semantics!"
Mike: I will say. The entire event was worth it, just for the vitriol from the audience. I've never seen anything like that before.
Matt: Agreed. If you can guarantee you'll see it with an audience as vocal as the one we did, I could almost recommend the movie.
Mike: I've seen the silent look of disgust in the, "Well, that was a waste of time," sort of way. But not booing. Booing a free movie.
Matt: Booing any movie is pretty unusual. I can't remember the last time I heard a large percentage of a crowd boo.
Mike: Outside of Citi Field, at least.
Matt: Right, well movie crowds, I meant. I once saw a crowd loudly and sarcastically cheering the end of BIRTH OF A NATION, but that was for, y'know, despicable racism. This was just an abrupt and poorly motivated ending.
Mike: Wait, just how old ARE you?
Matt: I am 84 years old. It was during film school! C'mon. Y'know how we should have known the ending would take place in the car? Because earlier in the movie they set up four cameras in the car for no reason whatsoever.
Matt: One more question for you, Mike: if a real documentarian was as bad of a cameraman as this fake documentarian is in this movie, how quickly would he be fired from his job? Fiction films trying to look like documentaries always look so much worse than actual documentaries. DOCUMENTARIANS OWN TRIPODS. THEY USE THEM.
Mike: Well, first of all: You're not supposed to get too close to the story, as to become the story. He let himself get possessed. I'd fire him on the spot for that alone.
Matt: "If you hadn't died in a car crash, I would have pulled my funding!"
Matt Singer has contributed to IFC, Sundance Channel and Time Out New York. You can contact him directly on Twitter.
Mike Ryan is the senior writer for Moviefone. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com, GQ.com, New York Magazine and Movieline. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter
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