"There's a sucker born every minute." -- PT Barnum
The Devil Inside was the number one movie in America for the weekend of January 11th while at the same time scoring a 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Audience Score rated exit and online polls from actual movie goers a solid "F." Numerous accounts across the country told of whole audiences booing the picture and lines for the manager demanding full refunds. Many attribute the abrupt ending while others felt it was one of the worst movies they ever saw.
Why is this a surprise?
I ran a movie theater for eight years and one thing I stood by was no refunds if you sat through the whole movie. Whether you were snookered by a misleading trailer or simply didn't bother to research what you paid for, you saw it, you bought it. It's no different than eating a whole meal and then once done, asking for a refund because you didn't like it. Buyer beware.
Movies like The Devil Inside, Paranormal Activity and the underwhelming Apollo 18 are horror shortcuts. They're cheats. They don't utilize character or plot development. They are quickly assembled by studios. Paramount has devoted an entire production wing to crank out product for this "found footage" shaky cam craze. The low budget investment, coupled with low risk millions invested in publicity and hype make for better chances on a return.
You can just hear the executives dreaming this shit up: Blair Witch in space (Apollo 18), Blair Witch
meets The Exorcist (The Devil Inside, Last Exorcism), Blair Witch meets Godzilla (Cloverfield), Blair Witch meets Poltergeist (Paranormal Activity 1-4). So I am proposing instead of more remakes, since so many people can be duped into lousy films like this one, the following mash-ups:
Blair Witch meets Jaws
Blair Witch meets Titanic
Blair Witch meets The Godfather
Blair Witch meets Friday the 13th
You get the idea. Before anyone scoffs, this is exactly what is going on and a massive boxoffice take (despite the fact that it was a cynical hit and run) shows there is one hell of a market for it. People want to be entertained and in horror they really want to be scared. That's why it easy to take advantage.
That's part of the problem. Audiences are demanding to be entertained but they are not demanding better product. And the reason for this is that the demand is one sided. Hollywood for the most part, is lazy. It almost always follows the path of least resistance. Instead of providing intelligent horror product it will go the cheap easy route that allows for the highest profit. There's a reason why "found footage" and zombie films are plentiful.
They're easy to make and easy to market.
The zombie film has one plot and one plot only: humans must survive. Whether the best of the sub-genre or even the hit AMC series, The Walking Dead, in the end it comes down to humans surviving between zombie attack to make it out alive to the end. The formula is simple and it works. Don't believe it, turn on streaming Netflix and check out how many zombie films you can count. Many you never heard of and there is a reason for that. However they are cheap filler for online streaming programming.
And while this is not a crime and some are truly so bad they're great, the found footage films are not. They are born of cynicism and lazy filmmaking. They foster a belief that anyone with a prosumer handycam can become a millionaire over night.
Something tells me McDonald's didn't give approval for the use of the copyright to make this motion picture.
And for that, the genre suffers as it gets flooded by this junk. Nothing Ed Wood made is worse than most of this junk. However, there is blame to be laid for the audiences that railed against being taken for their ticket money. They bear responsibility too. No one forced them to see it.
Many chose to ignore that the filmmakers and Paramount used the exact same marketing strategy as Paranormal Activity. Instead of night vision footage of an audience in a screening room, they substituted a church. God knows when I want to see my horror, I head on down the local chapel to get my scares. The idea behind it is that somehow a church screening lends authority. Churches don't lie, they wouldn't be complicit in a cheap, cynical marketing campaign. If the church is showing this then there has to be something to it.
BASED ON A TRUE STORY? SEE PT BARNUM
Once again the "based on true events" bullshit tag shows up and people just believe it. There is no single incident this film is "based upon." Yes, exorcisms are performed and whether they are the stuff of real supernatural events or the showmanship of fakes and psychologically disturbed individuals is not the case here. The fact is whether real or fake, people have been "exorcised" and there lies the "fact" that this story hitches its tagline to. A little research would make this clear and little more demand for something better from Hollywood would put the choke on the flow of this cinematic sewage from seeping out onto the screen.
We are about to release a horror film on the public that relies on genuine scriptwriting with a director who comes from a firm dramatic background and a true feel for good characterization. We used great actors and went for a star who has a pedigree in the genre. Despite his distaste for horror and his "bad boy" Hollywood image, Corey Feldman is a solid, upstanding actor who brings legitimacy to any film he graces.
We have had Facebook fans make "demands" like: "It better be good" or "This better meet my expectations." (As if they are going to find the filmmakers and beat them up?) Well our answer to that is, if your expectations of horror think Paranormal Activity or The Devil Inside are the height of horror, quite frankly we don't care if you see our film. You see, we expect something out of our audience as well. We expect them to know the difference between good and bad, "so bad it's good" and just plain cynical, lousy filmmaking to rake a few bucks from ignorance.
This crew worked hard to bring a solid horror story with excellent production values. Great camerawork, top sound quality and a vision from a director who is one of the most promising up and coming artists in the business. There were no cheats, no found footage gimmicks or shortcuts. The goal is to scare but the bigger goal is to entertain and have our audience leave feeling they got their money's worth.
We know our horror. We also know what the cheap trends are and we fought against the urge to make a found footage spookfest, zombie or slasher film. While these things have their place, we have not set out with the intent to fleece horror fans. Six Degrees of Hell is scary, it's a perfect date movie and it effectively brings the fun back into horror without going the satire or self-reference route.
Whether it is liked or disliked, found scary or not, we know it was made with a commitment to quality and a devout respect for horror fans. That is a lot more than can be said for the cinematic hit and run that took horror film fans this past weekend.