<em>The Devil Inside</em>, the latest in a recent rash of exorcism flicks, provides some cheap thrills for the so-bad-it’s-good film enthusiast.

From the strange new subgenre of trashy-but-fun exorcist flicks comes an oddly delightful piece of cinetrash, a lo-fi variation on the theme of last January’s Anthony Hopkins-starring The Rite. As with that earlier film, we can find some amount of perverse pleasure and maybe some kind of cheapskate catharsis in the blasé languidness of January filmgoing. We also can enjoy the idiomatic experience of watching crazed women (Why is it always women? Should we blame Linda Blair?) wrestling with demons, defaming the church, and getting their potty-mouth on. Sign us up!

Here we have the sordid tale of a possessed American woman (Suzan Crowley) who murders her ordained exorcist priests and a nun — well, the devil(s) inside made her do it — and ends up in an asylum in Rome. Many years later, the bedeviled woman’s daughter (Fernanda Andrade) seeks out her lost mother, with a documentary filmmaker in tow, and after the preliminary cool-headed research phase of their investigation, all hell breaks loose, and in some creative ways that circle back to the film-within-the-film. At the risk of committing a minor plot-spoiler sin, one twist this time around has to do with demonic possession as communicable disease.

With its clever mockumentary structure, The Devil Inside also emerges from the long shadow of The Blair Witch Project, a ploy that can help blur the line between faux factuality and horror-film shtick (and keep the production price tag low). In a way, too, the cinematic “devil inside” is the looping narrative machinery — call it the diabolus ex machina syndrome — in which the fractured illusion of cool, rational objectivity and the filmmaker character’s sensationalist-lust yield to surlier supernatural forces.

Never mind what the wet-blanket, devilish film critic cabal says about this flick (it scored a 7-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, thus earning a dubious achievement award). It’s a trashy little hoot, and you feel happy and cleansed after the rite is over.


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