Devil comes to us “from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan,” although if the marketing folks knew what they were doing they’d actually be hiding that association.
Once great, now lost (forever?), Shyamalan has become almost something of a joke amongst movie fans. He started out his career so well with the now classic The Sixth Sense and the both under-appreciated Unbreakable and Signs. However, after that a string of duds with The Village, Lady in the Water, The Happening and most recently The Last Airbender.
However, movie fans who’ve had enough of Shyamalan’s huge ego play out on film (he’s appeared in every one of his movies apart from The Last Airbender) can take solace in the fact that he only conceived the story for and produced Devil, but didn’t actually write or direct.
Whether it means something or is put coincidence, Devil is a refreshing, genuinely atmospheric horror/thriller that takes it’s somewhat gimmicky premise and runs with it until there’s no more left to get out of it.
The premise is very simple: Five seemingly anonymous people get into an elevator but soon after they start moving things begun to go seriously wrong. They begin to suspect that one of them is not who they say they are, with one of the security guards watching through the cameras suggesting that the devil himself is amongst them.
A gimmicky plot it most certainly is but admittedly a very intriguing one which provides plenty of opportunities for a lot of tension and mystery, not least of which comes from trying to wonder which one of these people are not who they say they are. The film does its best to trick the audience, cleverly placing equal blame on each of the people so as to level the suspicion playing field, so to speak. Hint: The culprit is not who you think it is… or is it?
It may sound boring that an entire movie is set within an elevator but, perhaps luckily, there are just as many (if not more) scenes out-with the elevator, mainly of outsiders trying to help and just try to figure out what’s going on as the incidents in the elevator get more horrific as time goes on.
I was afraid going in that Devil would resort to cheap gore tactics or out of ill-timed jump scares but director John Erick Dowdle (of the U.S. [REC] remake, Quarantine) really knows how to handle the horror. The use of the lights cutting and out is quite brilliant and the fact that all the actors are convincingly scared doesn’t hurt the film’s believability. There are a few moments here and there that aren’t for the faint-hearted but for the most part the terror is classy (if that word can ever be used to describe a film like this) rather than vulgar or offensive.
On top of Devil being a genuinely entertaining horror-thriller, in the end it also has something to say about redemption and being truly sorry for anything wrong you may have done in our life. The way the morals are presented might seem a tad tagged on – a certain clumsiness of how it jams those scenes in there take away from them somewhat – but nonetheless they’re still effective.
Devil won’t go down in movie history as one of the classic horror-thrillers but for what it is its solid entertainment through and through. It takes you to some places you might expect and does all it can to surprise with its many twists and turns (whether you guess the big twist will depend on how much attention your paying). This is the best piece of cinema Shyamalan has been associated with in years.
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