5 strangers get stuck on an elevator & while waiting to be rescued realize that they might not be alone & who or whatever is with them is killing them off one at a time….
You know it’s funny, when “The Sixth Sense” was released everybody was falling over themselves with praise for director M. Night Shymalan. After his third release (He did direct two movies before sixth sense) “Unbreakable” he was even more golden than before although some seams were starting to show in his work. Then he wrote & directed “Signs” which was also a big box office hit but once again…his flaws began to manifest themselves in a more obvious way. But the studios didn’t care, All of his films (except the first two I mentioned. They were “Wide Awake” & “Praying With Anger”) were big box office smashes & all of a sudden Hollywood became his personal sandbox to build whatever he wanted to build, however he wanted to build it.
So he follows up “Signs” with “The Village” & now even StevieWonder can see the cracks in the veneer showing. But it still makes money although critically it flops. But he soldiers on & his next production was “Lady In The Water”, his “Fairy -Tale” movie. She should’ve stayed underwater where nobody could see her. A critical & commercial flop here in the states it showed that he was running out of ideas…at least good ones anyway. He gave it one more try with “The Happening” which featured Mark Wahlberg apologizing to a Fern. I’m not even going to say why. What I will say is that the well that Shymalan was drinking from was now officially dry. To make matters worse apparently his head had gotten as big as some of his budgets & he didn’t think the studios who were funding his films “understood” what he was trying to accomplish with every one of his films.
Now up until this point he had written & directed (& in some cases acted) in all of his films. Earlier his year he tried his hand at directing something he didn’t write. “The Last Airbender” is a very popular animated series chronicling the adventures of Aang, a boy who can manipulate air (Airbender, get it)? It got miserable reviews as well especially from actual “Airbender” fans who wanted to string him up & hang him from a really high tower. Me? I thought it was rather entertaining myself but as I am not a fan of the animated series & have actually never watched it myself I guess my opinion didn’t count. But although it didn’t do well here in the states it was gangbusters everywhere else it played. But the damage was done already. Shymalan’s name on a film made people wary of his skills now. In fact, some studios considered his name to be poison at the box office…
Which is too bad because “Devil” which wasn’t directed by him is actually a pretty good movie. He is responsible for the story & it is being touted as being produced by him under the blanket name “Night Chronicles” of which this is the first one. It’s actually directed by John Erick Dowdle who last directed “Quarantine”, the American remake of Spain’s “REC”. The screenplay was written by Brian Nelson & it basically is more of a morality play than a horror film. ut in this case it sort of works.
The film opens with some wonderfully shot scenes of Philadelphia…upside down. I have to admit The Saint was more than a little perplexed as to why this was so but it does have a purpose.During the opening credits we are listening to a voice over from one of the characters who we meet later in the film. He is telling us about an old wives tale his grandmother would recite from time to time about Satan taking human form & mingling amongst us. He did this to pick up some of the more deserving to go to hell souls that he hadn’t gotten to yet, & having a bit of fun while he’s up here on Earth.
The film actually opens with a suicide. A leap off of a building onto a truck. Bad enough it would seem except hat the building he jumped off from was around the corner from where he actually landed! A detective (Chris Messina) is put on the case when he gets a call from headquarters about 5 people being stuck in an elevator from that very same building. The 5 characters in the lift are nameless save for four. Tony (Logan Marshall-Green), Vince (Geoffrey Arend), Sarah (Bojana Novakovic) & Ben (Bokeem Woodbine). The fifth occupant is simply listed as “Old Woman” in the credits & she is played by Jenny O’Hara.
As the five of them enter the elevator it is readily evident what each character is there to offer: Tony (Quiet, stoic), Old Woman (Terrified of everyone around her), Sarah (Sexy, but tough), Vince (Mouthy Asshole) & Ben (Scared but trying hard not to show it). All of them have secrets that they are hiding & that is basically the crux of the story. You see “Devil” isn’t really a Horror movie. It’s more of a movie about the choices we make in our lives & how we can live with them. And more importantly, do we deserve to be forgiven for these (possible) transgressions?
All of these secrets are slowly revealed throughout the movie & each time we find out someone’s secret, we are witnessing a confession of some type of criminal action. It should be said that some of these secrets aren’t uttered by the characters themselves but by the detectives who are working the case.
But there is a Horror edge to the film. There are intermittent power outings in the elevator & every time the lights come back on….someone is dead. Who’s killing them? There are only five of them to start with so every time one of them dies there’s one less “Person Of Interest” to pin the murders on.
The Detective working the case has issues as well. To divulge his problem would give away a lot of the movie so I can’t tell you what his problem is. But it does tie in to one of the people on the elevator. He just doesn’t know it yet. As for the 5 people in the elevator, it would seem that Ole Mr.Scratch is paying them a visit & he’s not leaving without all of them due to their hidden transgressions.
The deaths are gory enough & actually pretty spooky because they take place in the cramped elevator in the dark (large parts of the film are played in complete darkness which make it that much creepier). In all truthfulness though, it’s not all that scary aside from the darkened scenes in the elevator waiting to see who gets it next & how they get it. There is one classic jump cut scene that made the whole audience jump up in unison though.
All of the actors were uniformly excellent & keep the movie moving at a crisp pace. And waiting for the resolution was actually exciting (for me at least). There is one classic line uttered by one of the characters towards the end, “Damn…I Really Wanted You”. Who utters the line 7 in what context? Go see “Devil” for yourself to find out!
The Black Saint is going to give “Devil” 3 out of 5 Shrouds. It is an interesting, well paced movie that keeps your interest & offers a few PG-13 level scares. I would think that Mr. Shymalan should stick to producing for a while & give his directing career a break. If the rest of his “Night Chronicles” entries are as good as “Devil” is He’s got a career resurgence coming his way.
Just remember what I said earlier about “Devil” being more a movie about faith & forgiveness than actual Horror. Although it has Horror elements added to it’s stew pot I don’t really consider it a Horror movie. As a matter of fact if they cut some of the gorier scenes out it could probably play in a church! Not my church of course.The Church Of The Black Saint isn’t the right venue for “Devil“. But your local bijou is & I am recommending it to all of my acolytes. See it this weekend. You might be surprised at what you see.