Devil

Weeeeee!

Remember when M. Night Shyamalan was a hot property? I do. Though I liked The Sixth Sense as much as the next guy, I never got on the Shyamalan Love Bus. Now, after a few false starts culminating in his disasterpiece The Last Airbender, I’m not getting on the Shyamalan Hate Bus either. I thought that he was overrated at the beginning of the decade and find it odd that he’s now labeled as movie cancer. The way I feel about Shyamalan is akin to my feelings about Bruce Willis; I’ll go see one of his films in spite of him, rather than because of him.

As you can guess, I was looking forward to Devil with the same level of excitement that I look forward to most things in life . . . with benign indifference. This is going to be a very short review.

The plot of Devil is exceedingly simple. Five people get on an elevator. One of them is the Devil. The elevator breaks down, trapping them between floors. One by one, the passengers are murdered. Which one of them did it? Seriously. There is a subplot involving a police detective (Chris Messina) that had been dispatched to a crime scene nearby which turns out to be connected with the arrival of the Devil, but the main thrust of the five is the five people in the elevator.

There is a lot of unneeded exposition in Devil, much of it delivered by Ramirez, a building security officer and the chief of exposition, which I found annoying. There are details of the plot that the filmmakers thought you’d miss unless they stopped the movie and pointed them out with the metaphorical equivalent of one of those big foam “We’re Number One” fingers people take to football games. Clearly, they think we’re stupid. Maybe we are stupid, after all Jackass 3D made fifty million dollars this weekend.

The Devil’s arrival, according to Exposition Ramirez, is heralded by a suicide, further, the Devil arrives in disguise and kills those who are his to take. Those who witness the goings down are there for a reason. Those who intercede to foil the Devil’s plans are killed. There was something else, some little bit of something relating to the Devil leaving the scene. Maybe it was about cake or something. I totally forget.

You’re no doubt thinking as you’re reading this, “Captain Midnight, you sure hate this movie, don’t you?” I don’t. In spite of all it’s faults, I do not hate this movie. Devil has several things going for it. Director John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine, The Poughkeepsie Tapes) makes good use of the setting. Elevators are scary. They can fall. In fact, if they are in very tall buildings, like the building in Devil, they can fall a very, very long way. Elevators are small, confined boxy places in which you can barely move or breathe. They have very, very bad music. I’m scaring myself just thinking about it.

Devil is a quick film. The mayhem starts right from the credits and picks up the pace as it goes, letting up only for Exposition Ramirez to fill us in.

Devil also has another virtue that I fear will become increasingly rare; it’s not in 3D. Seriously. The main reason that I saw Devil was it was the only movie that sounded remotely interesting that wasn’t in 3D. I wanted to see My Soul to Take, but none of my local theaters is showing it in anything but 3D.

The characters are colored in with economy and the actors do a good job bringing them to life without much in the way of explicit back story or exposition. This is where the combination of writing, acting and directing really shines. The elevator passengers: Shady Salesman, Temp Security Officer, Cranky Old Woman, Pretty Young Woman, and Edgy Guy have tension between them right from the start. They are not just passively waiting for a rescue; they are seriously screwing with each other, making a bad situation even worse.

Outside the elevator, Detective Bowden, with help from his partner and the building’s security officers, try to piece together what is going on in the elevator. I could go into more detail, but that might get a bit spoilery.

Unlike previous films connected with Shyamalan, there is no big twist ending. Yeah, Devil has a punchy and satisfactory ending, particularly for a horror film, but there is no big  twist. I’m fine with that. Not every Shyamalan film has to be an epic or have a dizzying flip at the end; sometimes it can be just an entertaining movie with some good old school scares.

Starring:

Chris Messina
Logan Marshall-Green
Jenny O’Hara

Director:

John Erick Dowdle

Screenplay:

M. Night Shyamalan

 

Two and a half out of five Vincents

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