Review: INNER DEMONS Squanders Promise, Sinks Into Stale Demonic Tropes

As a found-footage horror flick, “Inner Demons” is as clichéd and by-the-numbers as they come. It’s stilted, dull and lacking in any genuine scares, resulting in a film that feels both shamelessly dated and severely underwhelming for an entry in its millennial subgenre.

The premise isn’t terrible: A teenage girl named Carson (Lara Vosburgh) who has an addiction to heroin becomes the subject of an Intervention-esque reality show, ultimately coming to terms with the notion that she needs to attend a rehabilitation center in order to recover. As the producers and cameramen behind the series soon discover, however, this young woman believes that she may be possessed by a demon, and uses drugs as a way to prevent the malevolent force from taking control of her body.

It’s a story that sparks an intriguing amount of moral ambiguity. Is Carson’s desire to get high so severe that she’s lashing out in some sadistically delusional ways, or does she truly believe that a satanic presence is forcing their way inside of her, using drugs in a twisted, ironic way to protect herself from the pain it’s causing?

Unfortunately, the film is far more interested in delving into stale, conventional material we’ve seen in countless other movies. Not only does it eliminate any sense of the psychological enigma at hand, but it also relies too heavily on cheap supernatural tropes that border on the brink of self-parody.

When Carson has been clean and sober for a couple of days, she begins to speak through demonic chants as her eyes roll up to the back of her head. Her religious mother begins to share a prayer with Carson during one of her visits, only to get doused in her vomit. A crew member splashes some holy water into a bubbler that Carson drinks from, resulting in a copious amount of blood erupting from her mouth.

The film provides us with a variety of details that go beyond the edge of absurdity, including facts about Carson’s childhood that reduce her character to little more than a cardboard copy of nearly every female victim of possession within the horror genre. She used to be a delightful straight-A student who memorized nearly every line of the bible and attended one of the best Catholic schools in the state, only to lose her way to drugs, dress all in black, and wear more gothic make-up than Marilyn Manson… Give me a break.

In one scene, we’re even filled in on a racially stereotypical piece of exposition from a black nurse in regards to why she placed a wooden cross under Carson’s bed. She confesses to one of the cameraman that she’s witnessed similar behavior by another woman in her African village growing up, who was eventually tied to a tree, covered with the blood of a goat, and beaten with sticks until she was killed. It’s cringe-inducing to listen to these discriminatory banalities, and it’s even harder to take them seriously.

Lazily written by Glenn Gers and sloppily directed by Seth Grossman, who spent no time constructing any aesthetically compelling compositions, “Inner Demons” is a juvenile exercise in found-footage horror. The one guilty-pleasure I had in watching this grim, self-serious slog of a film is reveling in the unintentional hilarity of its “shocking” ending, which aims for Greek tragedy, but is so outlandishly over-the-top that it’s bound to have viewers howling their way out of the theater. I laughed to the point of coughing up blood, myself.

Charlie Nash

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Charlie Nash is a freelance writer who currently lives in the greater Boston area. He has written for Movie Mezzanine, EDGE Media, Film School Rejects, Film Thrills, Cinematic Essential and Impassioned Cinema. He shares a birthday with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Laura Linney and Michael Mann, which fills him with a sense of purpose, despite being little more than a bizarre coincidence.

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