Through the dearth of direct-to-video found footage titles, it seems like any mook with a camera thinks he can be the next John Carpenter. Now don’t get me wrong, I certainly encourage the hell outta any creative personality with a leaning toward the film medium to get out there and get it done; hell, that’s the foundation of the whole damned horror genre. What I mean is that we see a lot of cheapie, POV flicks that often look as though it’s just someone that thinks they can turn a quick buck with an impromptu weekend shoot at gramma’s cabin on the lake with a gorilla suit. Some of these can crank out some laughs when they don’t take themselves too seriously (and sometimes, it’s their taking themselves too seriously that makes it funny), but they typically come across as cookie-cutter flicks, very little imagination or innovation finding it’s way onto the screen. Every now and then, however, an enterprising little indie will come charging out of the herd with a new angle; a different twist on an old story, perhaps, or a more relevant and/or interesting way to tell it.
I had heard good buzz about one particular VOD title and, always the hopeful horror watcher, settled in to check out Seth Grossman’s Inner Demons.
Beth and Steve Morris are concerned about their daughter, Carson. A lovely teen who used to be very pious and maintained excellent grades has slid to sad depths, running with the wrong crowd and using heroin.
The once bright and pleasant girl has become withdrawn and sullen, lashing out at her parents and alienating herself from all of her friends, save those that can get her the drugs she needs. Nearing their wit’s end, her parents submit her case to an “Intervention”-type show, hoping that such a shock coupled with rehabilitation assistance will bring their child back to them. The camera crew arrive, conducting their interviews and forming the background for their show; doing so, they discover Carson’s seeming preoccupation with the occult, and she reveals to them she believes she is possessed. Once she reaches rehab, this “possession” is cited by the staff as a common psychological response by some addicts — but as she proceeds through detox, she begins to exhibit even stranger behaviors than she had before, demonstrating frightening mood swings, seemingly psychic knowledge, and what may (or may not ) be horrifying hallucinations. She pleads with Jason, the one sympathetic cameraman, to get her some heroin; she explains that it’s the only thing that keeps the demon that possesses her in check — in fact, she only became a drug user to protect her family and others. Is this the drug-induced raving of an addict, or is Carson desperate to control a malevolent entity the only way she knows how — by rendering her body useless to it with drug abuse?
The film starts out like most others like it, but it did present a much more believable scenario than the norm; a camera crew shooting a television show has more than a good excuse to have cameras rolling, and we’re all familiar with the uncomfortable moments captured during these kind of reality shows, so I didn’t blink an eye at that reasoning. I found myself both angered at and believing the callousness of two-thirds of the production crew, concerned only with their story and with little feeling for Carson. Conversely, I felt sympathy for Carson and her family, and found it easy to be bummed out by the characters fall into drug abuse and the frustration and sadness this brought her mother and father. This is in no small part due to what are overall very solid performances, with a special note of praise to the lovely Lara Vosburgh playing Carson; she does the angst and drama of a teen extremely well, also throwing in certain nuances that accentuate the supernatural nature of the flick while also leaving nagging doubts as to whether she really is possessed, or just a junkie; very impressive. Once this relatability to the cast is established, I’m very pleased with the twist on the addiction concept; the use of one evil to battle another is an inspired idea, and one that was well-written and illustrated through the course of the narrative. Of course, even though I believe the filmmakers did a great job with a new twist on the concept and had good actors doing great characterizations, in the end it’s still a found footage possession flick. Of course you’re gonna see familiar things like strange demonic voices, bodily contortions, and displays of superhuman strength and telekinesis — all done with decent enough effects, just nothing you haven’t seen before; however, if the film didn’t have these, you’d have folks screaming from their rooftops that it sucks as a possession movie.
As it is with our chosen genre, there will always be those that think there’s too much character development and not enough horror, as well as the camp that says there’s too much exposition and not enough characterization; all a matter of personal taste.
Personally, I thought there was a pretty good balance between the two; couple that balance with the freshness of the underlying theme, and you’ve got yourself a decent indie horror film. I myself only found one bit nigh-unforgivable: after a damned disturbing and chillingly nihilistic ending, someone saw fit to tack on an obligatory little afterthought that, to me, completely blows apart the dark vibe of the closing moments. As a result, what I had found up to that point to be a fun, creepy flick is almost destroyed; the film needs to end about twenty seconds sooner than it does. I don’t know who specifically to blame for that one, so I won’t point fingers, but c’mon guys — it fucks up a really awesome ending.
That said, fans of possession flicks, found footage, or both should definitely check this one out; it’s worth watching despite that last little hiccup. It’s not The Exorcist by any means, but my opinion is that it’s a pretty original, enjoyable take on the subgenre with a clever story, engaging characters, and enough creep factor to keep me entertained.
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