Devil is the latest film written by M. Night Shyamalan in his attempt at doing darker films (The Happening was being touted as his first R-rated venture).
The film opens with the narrator (a security guard) explaining the legend of how the devil occasionally roams the earth collecting souls but tormenting them before he pulls them down below. From there we’re led to the high-rise building location of a mysterious suicide where 2 police are investigating the scene. During the investigation, 5 people get trapped in an elevator and the attention slowly shifts from the jumper to the elevator for the police after strange blackouts occur and the occupants begin panicking.
The people in the elevator are able to hear the police but can’t talk back, so communication is limited. The blackouts get more intense and the victims start to show up injured. The tension rises (sort of) and blame starts to go around as does paranoia. Some of the victims start to see disturbing images while the blackouts flash in and out. Eventually, one by one, the victims turn up dead in different ways in the elevator with the survivors left wondering who the murderer is.
One of the problems for me with this film is that I just didn’t think it was all that scary. The images during the blackouts seem predictable and didn’t come off all that intense. I wanted to leave the film being freaked out about going into elevators but unfortunately didn’t get that at all. The film could’ve gone this way but I don’t think think the director hit the mark on this one. Personally as a director, I would’ve gone with more discordant camera angles to help heighten tension and would’ve worked more with color, darkness and more upsetting images that you wouldn’t have seen coming.
Another issue I think is a problem is what I like to call the “Shyamalan Twist” (no, it’s not a dance move). I think when you hear of a M. Night film nowadays you expect a twist worthy of comparison to The Sixth Sense. That’s a lot of pressure and even seems like it has to be in his films now. He might want to take a break from forcing the twist and just write good stories without worrying about it. If the twist comes, it comes, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. This one seemed like it was manufactured to be in there but started to become transparent towards the end given the hints leading up to it. I had it figured out about 10-15 minutes before the end and wasn’t surprised.
The acting is OK, but nothing stands out and you don’t really seem to get too invested in any of the characters which deflates the severity of what’s happening to them. There are some incidental victims outside of the elevator as well, but again, you don’t really give a damn about them either. *Side note – if someone is electrocuted by a high power line, they’re not walking into a lobby the next floor up in a tacky, horror-moment set up, sorry, but that was just stupid.
The film is worth seeing once on DVD or HBO, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it again.
reviewed by Sean McKnight