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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Devil Inside

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service

 "The Devil Inside" (Paramount), so we're told, is a film the Vatican doesn't want you to see. If so, perhaps there's a "Da Vinci Code"-like conspiracy afoot intended to save you 12 of your hard-earned, economic-downturn dollars.

Those foolhardy enough to insist on wading through this cheap, inept piece of storytelling will experience an eye-poppingly bad, grotesque little horror outing. And that's not to mention the consistent spewing forth of lazy, sullen antagonism toward the Catholic Church.

The uninformed bias on display, in fact, can be compared not only to the turgid fantasies of Dan Brown but to the loopy visions of anti-Catholic cartoonist and tract churner Jack Chick. Thus one character declares, "In the eyes of the church, what we're doing is wrong; that's how we know it's so right!"

Keen to learn what provoked her mother Maria (Suzan Crowley) to murder two priests and a nun during an exorcism 20 years earlier, plucky documentary maker Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade) jets off to Rome in search of answers, accompanied by her faithful cameraman Mike (Ionut Grama)

While this could be the premise for a faith-friendly (and genuinely terrifying) offering, instead director William Brent Bell, who co-wrote the screenplay with Matthew Peterman, opts to place a mix of poor theology, bizarre conspiracy theories and downright nastiness into the mouths of two rogue priests who ally with the duo of filmmakers in their quest for "truth."

Said clerical types—Ben (Simon Quarterman) and David (Evan Helmuth)—are renegade exorcists who step in when the "institutional," "bureaucratic" church is too cowardly, hypocritical or just plain stupid to grant the possessed the rites that will set them free. Ben is particularly outspoken with his prejudices.

Such bigotry is never challenged. Nor does it ever seem to occur to anyone on screen that the church might have good reason to be wary of granting exorcisms. If performed on someone who is mentally ill—as opposed to genuinely possessed—after all, the ritual could potentially cause significant further psychological damage.

The film's opening proudly proclaims that the Vatican didn't assist in its production. That's all-too obvious, given the numerous inaccurate portrayals of both doctrine and practice. These range from made-up rites of exorcism to a blatant misrepresentation of the theology of baptism.

Another distortion is the supposed principle of "demonic transference," whereby an evil spirit can jump from one person to another in a flash, almost like a satanic form of the flu. Carried to farcical extremes, this idea has far less to do with Catholic teaching than with advancing the movie's halting plot.

Other entries in the genre—such as 1973's "The Exorcist" and the more recent "The Exorcism of Emily Rose"—inspired fear through implication and tension. Bereft of such subtlety, "The Devil Inside" resorts to loudly cracking bones, enormous amounts of blood and bouts of obscene language -- with results more risible than terrifying.

The film contains anti-Catholic animus, a fallacious presentation of church teaching and practice, implied acceptance of abortion, rare but intensely gory violence, a few uses of profanity and frequent rough and occasional crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
Jensen and Shaw are guest reviewers for Catholic News Service.



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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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