Going Down? (Film Review: “Devil”)

Have you ever wondered if the Devil walked among us? Just something to ponder the next time you step onto an elevator with total strangers, as in the Guilty-Pleasure-Halloween nail-biter, Devil.


SnapShot Plot

In this tightly photographed supernatural thriller that plays more like an old-fashioned Agatha Christie murder mystery (…. and then there were five…), the basic premise is this: Five total strangers board an elevator in a Philadelphia skyscraper just hours after an apparent suicide occurred at that address, for which Police Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) arrives on the scene to investigate. He’s just back on the job after a traumatic personal loss from which he’s still recovering and so it’s a coincidence that when a stalled elevator seems to be turning into a crime scene, he just happens to already be on the premises. . . or is it? Thus begins a series of grisly events which form a freaky jigsaw puzzle mercilessly and inexorably falling into shape. Bad things are happening to the five people trapped in the elevator, and according to the Catholic Hispanic security guard in the control room, this is clearly the work of the Devil Himself.



Parting Shot

Directed with claustrophobic zeal by John Erick Dowdle from a story by none other than M. Night Shyamalan, Devil was meant as the first in a supernatural thriller trilogy to be known as the night chronicles. I think the 2nd film may have been stalled in pre-production, which is a shame because Devil is classic Shyamalan. It delivers the expected gruesome touches with plenty of surprises while somehow managing to be vaguely tongue-in-cheek (I found myself chuckling through the fingers clamped over my eyes) as well as staging the most violent actions off-screen (by way of clever intermittent blackouts in the elevator itself). And as everybody knows (nod to Hitchcock) what you don’t see and rather imagine is so much more terrifying than what is shown to you on the screen. The film makes great use of sound effects in total darkness to achieve this horror.

Perhaps the biggest star in this film is Cinematographer, Tak Fujimoto, best known for his work on The Silence of the Lambs, Signs, The Sixth Sense and before you think all he does is Horror, he was also the D.P. on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Gladiator! How he manages to get so many angles in and around and above and below this doomed elevator is most impressive.

So here’s the thing about M. Night Shyamalan movies: they’re FUN and the production values and the caliber of actors who work on these projects are top notch all the way. If you want to read them as Morality Tales with a dose of religious and supernatural elements thrown in for a zinger of a dinner conversation afterward, all the better.

So while you’re answering your doorbell tonight to trick-or-treaters young and old, pop some popcorn for yourselves, put your feet up and have a blanky nearby for cover while you watch Devil. Happy Halloween!

Devil is Available on Netflix.

YouTube Trailer Courtesy of:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7l3nzjHYTg


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