Review: Devil

Starring: Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, Jenny O’Hara.

Director: John Erik Dowdle.

Writer: Brian Nelson.

On a particularly gloomy day in Philadelphia, five unrelated people get trapped in an office building elevator. As the security teams, and a jaded cop, watch them on a camera and try to get to them out, the group of five find themselves being picked off one-by-one. Someone in that elevator is not who they say they are. Is The Devil in disguise?

M. Night Shyamalan’s reputation has taken some heavy knocks over the last few years, and most of them somewhat deservedly. The writer and director was cursed by a stunning debut, The Sixth Sense, which he has struggled to live up to. The grossly self-indulgent The Lady in the Water marked the end of Shyamalan’s honeymoon period with Hollywood, and neither the foolish The Happening or The Last Airbender have done much to repair the damage. Still, Universal have made much of his involvement in Devil, a film for which he has only a producer and story credit.

Devil hinges on a commonplace idea crammed into an unusual setting. You don’t have to dig very far to find movies concerning a group of people being murdered one-by-one, with the certainty that someone in the group is responsible. But squeezing that dynamic into a small metal box is inspired. Screenwriters will tell you that one of the hardest things to do is the single-location movie. It’s no mean feat keeping the audience interested in a story which never moves. So it’s to Devil’s credit that, despite its flaws, it never loses your interest. The action is split between the five people in the elevator and those working around the building to get them out, and while it never lingers too long in either setting, it would have been fascinating to see the story told only from the perspective of those trapped.

Movies which are confined this way rely heavily on the quality of the performances, and the cast of B-list actors more than hold their own. A genuine sense of claustrophobia and fear permeates the elevator scenes, as it becomes clear that any one of these people could be responsible for what is going on. There are a handful of effective scares and an unsettling atmosphere in places, but unfortunately Devil is not as terrifying as you might have hoped.

I know, I know. The 'who farted' gag is way too easy.

What really lets Devil down in the end is the occasionally clunky dialogue (‘You must consider that one of those people is The Devil’), and some dreadfully clumsy exposition in the form of a narrator relaying a story he was told as a child. It’s just a little too heavy-handed and spoils the intrigue.

Devil is not a wasted opportunity at all, it’s an effective horror movie built around a great idea. It just could have been a little scarier, and a little less eager to make sure we get what’s going on. That aside, if you’re looking for a supernatural thriller for a cold Saturday night, you could do a lot worse. After all, it’s a hell of a lot better than The Lady in the Water or The Happening.

Rating - 3 Stars

.

.


12 people thought reading “Review: Devil” would be a good idea. Stranger still, they left messages...

  1. Dan

    I’m loving the re-design and re-branding Richard! Devil is one of those films I’ve been looking forward to but have yet to see. Great review, I’ll wait for it to appear on TV.

    Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      Hey, Dan. Good to see you here. I’m glad you like the new site. It’s been a labour of love, with a few launch problems, but I’m really pleased with it. :-)

      Reply
      1. Dan

        Finally got around to watching Devil and did enjoy it. I totally agree with your assessment though as it could have been better. I also clocked who the “Devil” was pretty much as soon as the victims were got locked in the elevator. To me it was too obvious that the one person you aren’t supposed to think is the culprit IS the culprit. But it’s an effective thriller.

        Reply
        1. Richard Post author

          Glad you enjoyed it, Dan. I actually watched it again recently, myself. It’s the atmosphere that I enjoyed the most, I think. I love that opening sequence of the city upside down.

          Thanks for coming back and letting me know what you thought of it. :-)

          Reply
  2. rtm

    I got so tired seeing the trailer over and over again, seems like I see this in front of every movie I saw last Fall. But I might check it out on dvd. My fave M Night movie is Unbreakable, even more than Sixth Sense so I’d still give that guy a chance :)

    Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      Yeah, I liked Unbreakable too. It was definitely a breath of fresh air for the superhero movie. I thought Signs was really good. But I get the impression that M. Night Shyalaman is someone who was told how great they are once too often. It’s the only explanation for The Lady in the Water. ;-)

      Reply
  3. Superbru43

    This movie was sort of predictable to me. Without giving anything away, I sort of expected the deveil to take the form of the selected person. I did also feel the the extensive use of blood and continous blackouts made it a SAW genre rather than a supernatural horror movie. A little boring actually with no big suprises. Thanks for all your reviews. Most help me decide what I want to watch. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      Hey, thanks for reading, Superbru. Apologies if I led you astray on this one. :-)

      I must confess I drew no comparisons with the Saw movies, which I loathe. While I was watching I found myself deciding the Devil was going to end up being each of them at given times, but it did keep changing my mind.

      Horror movies are always tricky to recommend, just like comedies. Thanks for commenting. Keep reading. :-D

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>