Devil (From M. Night Shyamalan)
Five strangers riding in an elevator on what appears to be a normal day are trapped when the elevator suddenly stops working. Though the building security promise everything is fine and that they’ll be out soon, it quickly becomes obvious that something is very wrong and that their lives (and souls) are in serious danger.
In 1999 M. Night Shyamalan became a household name when he blew us away with THE SIXTH SENSE. Then came UNBREAKABLE and SIGNS and at that point he couldn’t make movies fast enough to appease the masses just waiting to throw money at him. Of course, all good things must come to an end and as such crap like THE VILLAGE, THE LADY IN THE WATER and THE HAPPENING floated down the pipeline and pretty much undid all that he’d done for himself (I’ll leave THE LAST AIRBENDER out of this). What happened, you ask? Arrogance, ignorance, laziness, all of the above, who knows really but it happens a lot in Hollywood so I can’t say I’m surprised, disappointed yes but not surprised. That said, here’s the good news: DEVIL was the edge of your seat, spine tingling experience I crave yet seldom get out of a Horror film. I couldn’t have left the theatre happier.
Okay, so even I’ll admit that the premise here (five people stuck in an elevator realize they’re in there with the Devil) though remotely intriguing wasn’t exactly compelling. The first thing that popped into my mind was PHONEBOOTH, which for all intensive purposes accomplished a lot with so very little. The same can be said here as the story goes far beyond the small tidbit they’re using to reel us in. M. Night gives us a monologue intro about stories he was told as a kid (weak monologues devoid of any type of emotion but Shyamalan always has to put himself in there somehow) to help kick start the mood and build some tension but it isn’t until one of the security guards (who just happens to be a religious fanatic) gets a glimpse of what’s going on in the elevator do we really start to see some of the pieces come together.
Now if I’m sounding a little vague it’s because there’s a lot to give away or ruin here and I just can’t bring myself to do that to you but I will say this, what catapults DEVIL beyond other tales involving Satan himself is that usually you get some kind of creepy “Devil” inspired mystery turning up in some remote ruins or tied to some unearthed artefact all of which go relatively unnoticed to all those uninvolved. Not this time. Here the Devil wants an audience to see how he’s punishing his victims and I loved that concept! No hiding, no secrets, just an all out “The Devil came down to Georgia” free for all with all the cards out on the table, the way it should be.
DEVIL was a film I went into with next to no expectations but believe you me, film one of the M. Night Chronicles has me revved up and screaming for more. Shyamalan can write a great Thriller/Horror flick if he wants to and the dialogue here proves that he had to be on something when he wrote THE HAPPENING as he didn’t miss a beat here. You’ll recognize some of the cast from minor roles here and there but all players involved shine. I was also impressed with the camera work; lots of close-ups were the way to go to help create a sense of claustrophobia mixed with simple darkness when the lights went out from time to time. Sometimes the simplest route is the best route. All in all DEVIL marks the return of my faith in Shyamalan and was a grade A time at the movies (with an ending that’ll suck the air out of the room). I highly recommend it.