The low-budget, box office-topping exorcism horror flick is (almost) an annual rite of passage in Hollywood. Pun intended. This year’s film came early in the form of The Devil Inside, the tale of a woman’s trip to The Vatican to learn the truth about her (just maybe) demonically possessed mother.
The Devil Inside‘s deep focus on Catholicism comes at a particularly interesting time as the Catholic church itself pushes a major media campaign in the hopes of inspiring Catholics to “come home.” [more]
From The Last Exorcism (2010) to The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) to Exorcist: The Beginning (2004), exorcism remains popular enough to fuel a top film every few years. But the film with the most in common with The Devil Inside is 2011’s The Rite.
Similarly concerning a Catholic exorcism-performing priest experiencing a crisis of faith, The Rite is also set in The Vatican. That’s two exorcism films in as many years set in the home of Pope and focused on those struggling with Catholic beliefs.
Cue Catholics Come Home, a new, national, high profile “evangelization initiative” by the Catholic Church U.S. to “sell” itself back to its faithful. Catholic Online called it the first campaign of its kind “ever in the 2,000 year history of the Catholic Church.” The commercials have been airing in prime time during programming ranging from college football bowl games to Fox News to the Kennedy Center Honors broadcast to the Hallmark Channel. The organization is spending an estimated $4 million on the campaign.
The data on exactly what the church is struggling against are stark. According to Pew Forum on Religion, “Even though 31 percent Americans (31%) were raised in the Catholic faith, today fewer than one-in-four (24%) describe themselves as Catholic.”
It’s noteworthy that the Vatican is not alone in its turn to commercial TV in hopes of stopping the bleeding. Recently The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints launched a “Cool Mormon” campaign. Then there was the disastrous Israeli government ad campaign which encouraging expatriate Israelis to return the Jewish state by, more or less, shaming Jewish parents.
Catholics Come Home is just one of a number of modernized sales pitches for the church. A new push to recruit men to the priesthood by the Roman Catholic Church of New York calls for “real men.” Targeting young men at typical young male hangouts (theaters, football games), the promos state that “You Have to be a Real Man if you want to become a Priest.” It concludes, “The World Needs Heroes.”
Oddly enough, The Devil Inside offers a bit of cloaked commentary on the marketing of Catholicism. One theme was all about how the church had become far too image conscious and scandal-adverse and had grown into far too bureaucratic an organ to properly function as the bulwark against the devil’s influence.