Inner Demons should loosely be grouped under the “found footage” subgenre of horror, although the film hasn’t been unspooling for very long before it abandons any formal pretense of adhering to that format save for the smeary cinematography. On the surface, the idea has a flicker of interest: what would happen if a young person in the throes of drug addiction is sent to rehab, only for everyone to learn that she was using the drugs to sedate a demon infesting her body?
In this case, that young person is Carson (Lara Vosburgh) a once-bright teenager who inexplicably begins using hard drugs after her parents Steve (Christopher Parker) and Beth (Colleen McGrann) enroll here in a high-end Catholic high school. Her behavior becomes so self-destructive that she eventually ends up in a rehab clinic. More disruptive behavior follows, along with standard possession tropes like vomiting, speaking in tongues, etc., past the point where it becomes ludicrous for anyone observing Carson to deny that there’s more going on with her than an especially tough detox.
The twist is that all this is being filmed for a reality TV show that is loosely based on the real-life series Intervention — of which Inner Demons director Seth Grossman helmed eight episodes, so he knows something about that series worked. The series’ crew (including a would-be boyfriend for Carson played by Morgan McClellan) more or less orchestrates Carson’s move to rehab and a lot of the movie is seen through their cameras, interspersed with the surveillance gear that seems to cover every inch of the rehab center. Since the center’s cameras pick up even more bizarre images — including the movie’s one effective scare — you have to wonder if anyone is watching this stuff and, if so, why they’re not reporting it ASAP.
But that’s not unexpected for a film like this, which wants to trade on the “found footage” gimmick (which is also good for saving a few bucks) but doesn’t really stay within the lines. The TV show footage and the surveillance tapes, for example, are all edited together yet build to a climax that arguably leaves no one to assemble the material, let alone include the final sequence. That laziness, unfortunately, extends to the entire film and especially its script (by Glenn Gers), which leaves no cliché unexplored as Carson is put through the predictable paces of her possession. Grossman generates almost no suspense, save for one or two of those static surveillance shots, since we know almost right from the beginning that Carson is under a demonic influence. How do we know? Among other things, the camera image becomes unstable. Shocking!
The potentially interesting idea of spotting the difference between addiction and real possession is never fully explored since we’re alerted so early on which side of the fence Carson lands on, while the satirical aspect of the reality show manipulating the whole thing for ratings never really grabs hold for more than a few minutes either. Grossman and Gers just seem more interested in ticking the boxes on the “possession story” checklist after a while, before deciding they want to turn the whole thing into a splatter movie for the final 10 minutes. Even that loses its vicious appeal, thanks to an especially murky and incoherent sequence of shots in which people run frantically around a darkened house — all while carrying cameras, of course.
Inner Demons is out now on VOD and in limited theatrical release.