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?!