Sep 24 2010

Unreal Movie Review: Devil

Published by at 12:00 pm under Movies,Reviews

Devil was a true test for the Shyamalan name, perhaps his final one. It’s been proven that the if the man directs a film or writes a script, it’s almost going to certainly be a disaster these days. But what about if he merely comes up with the fundamental IDEA for a film, and lets others work behind the camera and on the screenplay? Is his merely name in the credits enough to completely tank a film?

No, it’s not, and it’s allowed Shyamalan fans from back in his glory days to hope that he might still have some valuable contributions to make to the horror genre, so long as he remains at a distance.

Devil sounds like a short story or a Twilight Zone episode rather than the concept for a feature film. Five people are trapped in an elevator, and every time the lights go off one of them ends up dead. But as the police watch on monitors, and each character’s secrets come out, they mystery deepens even further as to who they are, why they’re all there, and why the “Devil” wants those who are observing the events to watch.

It really is a great little mystery from the mind of Shyamalan, and it’s nice to see someone take that gem of an idea and polish it into an effective script, whereas had he been allowed those duties, he would have probably chucked that gem right into the sewer.

The Devil will not be thwarted by your cell phones.

It’s not the best horror script ever written, but the fact that 80% of the film takes place in a 6×7 foot elevator and it never feels boring or stale speaks to how compelling the film actually is. Dialogue is all its got, and though it gets a bit over the top hammering home the film’s plot points (there’s a typical Shyamalan-ish character there who specifically explains each supernatural element as they happen, ie. Lady in the Water), but other than that, the characters and their reactions to their situation are far more convincing than anything we’ve seen from the Shyamalan in years.

The five poor souls locked away in the elevator are black security guard (Bokeem Woodbine), creepy salesman (Geoffrey Arend), old woman (Jenny O’Hara), young woman (Bojana Novakovic), and shady mechanic wearing hoodie (Logan Marshall-Greene). Outside of a few extra adjectives, these are their character names verbatim, as their names ultimately end up being part of the mystery.

As it turns out, these people aren’t as innocent as you might expect, and all of them have committed sins that they’re now paying penance for by being stuck in an elevator with the Devil. That’s the central mystery of the film, figuring out which character is secretly Lucifer, and as bodies begin piling up, you find your options narrowing down pretty quickly.

“If you’re the Devil, I’m going to need you to raise your hand.”

Despite the fact I guessed correctly from the trailer which one it would be, it was still enjoyable to watch the scenario unfold and get progressively more insane. It’s kind of a supernatural version of Saw, where people are thrust into a life and death scenario and forced to confront their past misdeeds.

With Buried coming out this weekend, I’ll be curious to see how this concept to be taken even more to the extreme. Five people in a box for an hour and a half? Try one guy in a coffin for an entire film. Movies like this rely heavily on the abilities of the actors and screenwriters, as there’s no change of environment or special effects to take our minds off things. With an unknown cast and crew, guided by a man responsible for some of the worst cinematic disasters in recent history, Devil is quite a pleasant surprise, and a genuinely interesting and enjoyable original horror film, something we rarely see in this day and age.

It’s the first part of the “Night Chronicles” where M. Night gives his ideas to others to run with, and I think if they continue on this path, it might just the fallen director’s redemption.

3.5 out of 5 stars

OH SHIT, WHO LET HIM ON SET?!





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7 responses so far

  • cenaris

    I don’t think any future work he brings out, no matter how good it is, will make people think he has any talent left while The Last Airbender still exists.

  • Filosoraptor

    Your reviews are great Paul, you’ve actually succeeded at getting me interested into watching this film.

  • chelsea

    i couldn’t disagree with you more. i’m actually one of the only people in the world that was an M. Night fan until this year. i liked The Happening and Lady in the Water. i would rank The Village as his worst of his past works.

    i was dragged to The Last Airbender, which i was unfamiliar with, and found it very boring. however, i never expected to like it.

    expecting more from Devil, i found it incredibly boring AND predictable. *SPOILER ALERT* – the minute the cop told the hit-and-run story, i said “oh, well someone in the elevator was the person who committed that crime… duh, otherwise it wouldn’t have been brought into the storyline”. THEN, after the first guy in the elevator dies, i automatically think “well, they’re going to make you believe it’s every person in the elevator one at a time when it will actually be a dead person. oh, they haven’t suspected the old lady, so it’s obviously her.”

    it was so annoying to guess the twists so early on in the film and then the next hour is just repeating a basic (not scary) pattern of: lights go out, one person dies, they fight. lights go out, one person dies, they fight. and so on.

    this movie made me FINALLY jump on the “Shyamalan Sucks” bandwagon. here is how I would rank his films from best to worst:

    1.) Unbreakable (hands down)
    2.) Signs
    3.) The Happening
    4.) The Sixth Sense
    5.) The Lady in the Water
    6.) The Village
    7.) Devil
    8.) The Last Airbender

    (haven’t seen Wide Awake or Praying With Anger, but i’m sure they would go above The Village)

  • http://www.unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

    @chelsea

    I respect your difference of opinion, but honestly, The Happening currently occupies the #1 slot on my “Worst Movies All Time” list. There is just so much badness there it’s astonishing, and don’t say he was going for some shitty “B-Movie” thing on purpose.

  • zero

    am I the only person that liked the village…. I thought the concept was brilliant. It was a sharp social critique of people that don’t want change in the status quo. It’s actually quite relevant with today’s political culture.

    ok, I will give you that the blind chick character in the movie was weak.

    • Madison

      The Village is very good. Don’t understand all the hate. If it’s because of the twist, people are focusing on the wrong shit. M. Night successfully made a period piece (not easy to do) with prevalent themes of fear and control. Much more intelligent movie than 95% of what’s out there.

  • BrockSamson

    @Paul

    I’m with you on that. The Happening was a pile. Terribly acted, boring, predictable, etc…it batted 1.000 in the suck department (strictly imo, of course).

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