"Devil" Movie Review

9/19/2010 Posted by Admin

"Devil"

Movie Review

Directed by John Eric Dowdle, Written by Brian Nelson and M. Night Shyamalan, 80 Minutes, Rated PG-13

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti


"Devil" is the latest mess coming from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan. Before you get any ideas, no, this isn't technically an M. Night film--he didn't direct, nor did he actually pen the screenplay. In an effort to expand his horizons (or make a quick buck, whatever works), Shyamalan has put together "The Night Chronicles," a trilogy of films with stories he himself comes up with but which are then handed down to directors and writers of his choice. "Devil" is, as the massive number "1" preceding the film suggests, the first in these chronicles, with the directorial duties handed to "Quarantine" helmer John Eric Dowdle and the screenwriting to Brian Nelson of David Slade's "30 Days of Night."

The result is interesting--a failure, certainly, but an interesting one nonetheless. The plot is really rather brilliant. Five strangers--Tony (Logan Marshall-Green), Jane (Jenny O'Hara), Sarah (Bojana Novakovic), Ben (Bokeem Woodbine), and Vince (Geoffrey Arend) are stuck in an elevator. One of them is the Devil. As the five strangers, each with dark, shady secrets, argue amongst themselves, Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) attempts to get them out of the elevator alive and solve a suicide that took place in the same building, all while dealing with the grief he still has over the tragic death of his wife and son.

With a plot like that, you might expect something slight and subtle, like "Bug" or a horror-tinged "12 Angry Men" or, maybe even more appropriately, Hitchcock's "Rope" or "Lifeboat." Well, not so much. The story would lend itself to such an interpretation, but Dowdle settles for a more typical, cliched approach. Lots of jump scares and badly-written banter fill every frame, none of it particularly thrilling, and all of it is surrounded by a very obnoxious and condescending themes regarding faith and redemption that one can pretty much expect from Shyamalan, even if he personally never put pen to paper.

Still, it's not all bad. The acting is solid enough that the poor dialogue tends to work well enough, which makes the claustrophobic scenes in the elevator a bit more engaging and interesting than they may have been otherwise. And the overall concept, while poorly executed, does tend to pull you in. From the moment the film begins, you do want to know which character is the Devil, and what exactly is going on.

Unfortunately, unlike "The Sixth Sense" or "Unbreakable," the "Shyamalan twist" that pulls the whole thing together is rather dull. Sure, it's not really that predictable (though those who have "Signs" fresh in their memory may have a few inklings before the final act--and no, not aliens), but it's not very shocking either. And as the body count stacks up and things get more convoluted, the mystery really stops being intriguing altogether.

Shockingly, the whole thing probably would've been better off if Shyamalan himself had been involved beyond conception and producing. He may be a bit sub-par of late (or, with "The Last Airbender" in mind, downright terrible), but he does have a fine understanding for visual flair, even in more economical settings like this ("The Village," for example), and if he'd actually written the film himself, it might have felt more personal, if just as heavy-handed. I never thought I'd ask for Shyamalan to get behind the camera again, but if he's going to continue with these Chronicles, I'd rather see him tackle them himself. As it is, "Devil" is a great premise with a very disappointing execution--perhaps not the worst Shyamalan has ever offered, but he has a long way to climb to get back from the bottom.

Grade: D+

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2 comments:

  1. OST said...

    I'm not sure what to think of this. It looks pretty good, but I think I'll wait for the DVD.

  2. sarah said...

    Being a very superstitious person enough as it is so I think "Devil" didn't help me not to be. I will never get in an elevator without someone I know in it as well. Anything can happen to anyone for no reason at all. This was a great movie! I'm glad that I ordered it online from Blockbuster the mail service was completely fast! As an employee for DISH I can say that we are giving 3 months free of Blockbuster to new customers that come to DISH. I'm happy that DISH owns Blockbuster now. You get unlimited movies, games and TV shows through the mail and 5 in-store exchanges with the new promotion. http://goo.gl/wuMrN