'Inner Demons': LAFF Review

Inner Demons LA Film Fest - H 2014
LA Film Fest

Inner Demons LA Film Fest - H 2014

An unexceptional genre offering that presents no threat to already ascendant franchise properties.   

Newcomer Lara Vosburgh stars in Seth Grossman’s found-footage horror film.

Paranormal Activity casts a long shadow over Inner Demons, although this rather bland satanic-possession pic doesn’t benefit much from any comparisons. Lacking the creative wherewithal to match that franchise’s creepy, well-tuned scares, director Seth Grossman’s low-budget feature may realize its best release options with digital formats.

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This film’s particular found-footage horror conceit revolves around a reality TV show profiling addicts and their enablers. The reality show is shooting the downward spiral of a suburban family caught up with the worsening drug addiction of teenage Carson (Lara Vosburgh), a Catholic high-school dropout whose previous proclivity for Bible study has shifted to goth fashion choices, prescription drug abuse and shooting heroin. Her mom, Beth (Colleen McGrann), and dad, Steve (Christopher Parker), have tried to resolve Carson's addiction issues with an array of ineffective parenting strategies that has finally led them to accept help from the reality show to deal with their daughter's emotional issues and the personal shortcomings they refuse to confront.

The investigative TV crew assigned to sensationalize Carson's story includes hard-charging host/producer Suzanne (Kate Whitney) and smart-ass cameraman Tim (Brian Flaherty), along with Craigslist-recruited newbie Jason (Morgan McClellan) on additional camera. Their initial interview with Carson, conducted as she cooks up and shoots prescription drugs on camera, establishes her candidacy for a treatment facility, and her relocation takes place with the assistance of the rehab center’s conniving psychologist (John Cragen).

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As Carson goes through withdrawal, her incarceration only serves to reveal what the drugs have been concealing and nobody else was willing to consider, even when she pleaded for help: something evil has taken hold of Carson and doesn’t want to let her go. Jason, unable to resist his growing empathy for the attractive young addict, attempts to offer assistance or even consider an amateur exorcism — but ends up dragging his crew and Carson’s family into a far more sinister situation than anyone could have anticipated.

Vosburgh, starring in her first feature, manages to generate intermittent interest onscreen, but neither her performance nor the character is singular enough to really impress. McClellan and much of the rest of the cast adequately fill fairly predictable roles without particular distinction.

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Grossman’s background as a former segment producer for A&E’s Intervention series certainly lends authenticity to the film’s rather literal interpretation of addiction as a form of possession. However, Glenn Gers’ script doesn’t establish a similarly convincing basis for Carson’s spiritual conflicts, despite the familiar visual trappings of satanic symbols, rituals and texts. The rather routine imitation of reality TV-style camera and editing techniques, along with uninspired special effects associated with Carson’s spiritual affliction, don’t attempt to break new ground but gain little by repeating familiar formulas.

Production company: Schorr Pictures

Cast: Lara Vosburgh, Morgan McClellan, Colleen McGrann, Christopher Parker, Brian Flaherty, Kate Whitney, Richard Wilkinson, John Cragen, Susan Ateh, Ashley Sutton

Director: Seth Grossman

Screenwriter: Glenn Gers

Producer: Robin Schorr

Executive producers: Dan Seligmann, Chris Ferguson

Director of photography: Chapin Hall

Production designer: Lee Yaniv

Costume designer: Michelle Trachtenberg     

Editor: Jeff Seibenick

Music: Adam Balazs

No rating, 86 minutes