A novel horror gimmick is given the unfortunate Shyamalan dramatic treatment in Devil, a somewhat solid B-picture that’s hobbled by its creator’s love for twist endings and needless emotional baggage. Though he only gets a story credit, M. Night’s fingerprints are all over this dramatic thriller disguised as a horror film. Indeed, there are no Clive Barker-style elevator rides to hell to be found here. One of the characters does inevitably embody the Dark Lord, but aside from the black contact lenses and a few horrible deaths that go unseen, much of it simply boils down to an Agatha Christie-style whodunit. All of this would be fine if the picture weren’t also full of connective character tissue cut from expository Shyamalan melodrama.
The premise is perfectly simple -- five people are stuck in an elevator and one is the Devil. Get ready… Go! What the trailer doesn’t let on is that the film actually follows an angst-ridden police detective (Chris Messina) who’s working on identifying the trapped people via the elevator’s security cam as they begin to die off every time the lights go out. It seems that each person isn’t really all that good, so as the rescue crews work to get them out of the elevator, it becomes a race against time for the cop to figure out who is killing whom in there (even though he has no power to do anything about it). Oh yes, and then there’s the religious security guard who claims the Devil is in the elevator (he also annoyingly predicts what the Devil will do next throughout the picture).
The funny thing is that the twist regarding the Devil’s identity actually works. Then it’s followed up by a second M. Night dramatic twist that is just not needed. The success of genre films largely doesn’t hinge on characters’ motivations, yet here the film stops to explain away why a character did this or that. Meanwhile, the freakin’ DEVIL is in an elevator and M. Night demands character-driven flashbacks. Just guess which element popcorn-chewing audiences will be more concerned with. Director John E. Dowdle (Quarantine) deserves some credit for crafting a pretty engaging thriller, but he’s basically a hired helper under the master’s all-knowing but misguided eye. Devil still works in a roundabout way, but viewers’ enjoyment of it will surely depend on how much they’ve had it with the trappings of a filmmaker who just doesn’t know when to let a horror film just be a horror film.
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- Released: 2010
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: A novel horror gimmick is given the unfortunate Shyamalan dramatic treatment in Devil, a somewhat solid B-picture that’s hobbled by its creator’s love for twist endings and needless emotional baggage. Though he only gets a story credit, M. Night’s fingerpr… (more)