The trouble with found footage as a concept is that it pushes the limits of that all important element of movie watching, the suspension of disbelief. More times than not, a found footage film rips an audience out of the story no less than a dozen times with questions such as, “why are they still filming, how many camera batteries do they have, how’d they get they shot?” and on and on. When you, as a filmmaker, involve the camera in an overt part of the story itself, accounting for its logistical presence is a challenge.
That’s what makes Inner Demons, the latest by writer Glenn Gers and director Seth Grossman, such an interesting concept. Instead of a group of teens carrying cameras way past the point of common sense, the film is put forth as a docudrama, think “Intervention” by A&E. So does this clever proposal of explained continual camera coverage allow Inner Demons to overcome the limitations of found footage while harnessing the reality that makes the sub-genre so promising?
The A&E program “Intervention” isn’t just the inspiration for Inner Demons it is a near carbon copy of the program for the first act of the film. This makes sense when you realize that Seth Grossman has worked on that particular program. This realization adds to the reality of the setup and makes the exploitation of the subject begin filmed have an uncomfortable amount of believable heft.
In truth, the context of Grossman’s background makes one wonder if a large portion of Inner Demons is an indictment of that sort of programming. The kind that exploits those unfortunate souls who have fallen into destructive behavior, all while pretending to be a source of help. In fact a large portion of the film could be seen as an allegory directed at the dehumanizing way that the drug addicted are treated. Instead of acknowledging the source of their pain, or their addiction, these programs are only interested in a neat and tidy resolution that will fit into their fifty-four minute running time.
Once this rumination passes, though, Inner Demons devolves into your standard exorcism picture, and a clumsy one at that. Gone is any subtext or thematic issues that may have been hinted at earlier in its running time, replaced instead by CGI heavy effects and a mildly racist exposition character. In short, the film becomes completely ordinary and mildly boring.
This devolution is especially aggravating because of the interesting setup and character portrayals prior to the “scares”. Before it goes full horror, throwing its monster front and center in peculiarly well lighted areas, Inner Demons almost toys with the idea of walking the thematic line of addiction versus demonic possession. That approach is teased for long enough that when the film takes its turn into the typical, one can’t help but feel let down. Sometimes it’s worse to have one-third of a promising film followed by two-thirds of a routine film than it is to have a fully uninspired and mediocre film from the beginning.
So while the found footage portion of the film mostly works, laying down an impressively realistic bit of storytelling, the final act falls into the fantastical and ridiculous. Both the found footage approach and the story itself takes a disappointing turn into the mystically banal.