Director – John Erick Dowdle
Cast – Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, Jenny O’Hara, Bojana Novakovic, Bokeem Woodbine, Geoffrey Arend, Jacob Vargas, Matt Craven, Joshua Peace, Caroline Dhavernas, Joe Cobden
Release Year – 2010
Reviewed by John of the Dead
While some now see M. Night Shyamalan as a joke after the less-than-favorable The Happening, and his horrid adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender, I was intrigued about this film after reading the plot, then become even more stoked after viewing the film’s trailer. While M. Night has slowly fallen off his directing prominence, he has at least proven that he can come up with a cool story here and there(The Happening came with a story never before used in the genre, creativity is creativity), and thankfully this film follows suit and is the best film he has been attached to since Signs. Directed by up-and-coming John Erick Dowdle(The Poughkeepsie Tapes, Quarantine), Devil is a surprisingly good watch that shows simplicity can make for a complex and creative watch.
Devil follows five strangers from all walks of life who become trapped in an elevator together in a high rise office building. As paranoia and social breakdown kick in amongst the trapped strangers, things become worse when a supernatural force within the elevator makes its presence known. One by one the strangers are killed off in gruesome and unreal fashion, and while the logically thinking security guards and detectives called to the scene desperately attempt to come up with a logical explanation, those who know of the Devil’s folklore tales know that the Devil himself is among them.
I am glad to say that I enjoyed Devil more than I thought I would. I expected it to be an OK watch, but thankfully I left the theater thinking that this was not merely an OK watch, but a good watch overall and a film worthy of my time and money.
The bulk of this film’s enjoyment lies in its simple yet uniquely crafted storyline from M. Night Shyamalan, which was prepared for the screen by 30 Days of Night screenwriter Brian Nelson. You know that I love nowhere-to-run scenarios, and a stalled elevator definitely qualifies as one. To make matters cooler, the supernatural element of the Devil himself thrown into the mix only adds to the horror involved. Nearly the entire 80 minute runtime takes place with our protagonists stuck in the elevator, which I personally found enjoyable because this forces the filmmakers to get creative or suffer a boring watch, and thankfully these guys got creative. With such a simple storyline we get so many different elements thrown into the mix, leaving the viewer in a static state of mind as we never truly know what is going on, or who could possibly be committing the murders. Could it be the one of the strangers is a killer? Or is the Devil really amongst them? Well, we find out in the end, and with awesome results.
Director John Erick Dowdle does a fantastic job bringing this film to us and awesomely executing the horror involved. The paranoia and social breakdown we get at the beginning of the ordeal is real and given to us well enough to move the audience and get your juices flowing, and from then on out he brings the utmost in tension and fear. His first horror film, the still unreleased The Poughkeepsie Tapes showed that this man has what it takes to execute good horror, although it seems his “breakthrough” horror film Quarantine turned off some viewers to him. While Quarantine was a completely unnecessary remake to the best horror film of last decade, REC, it was by no means a really “bad” film, and his direction attested to that. Dowdle’s ability to keep us “in the dark” figuratively and literally throughout this film made for a creative approach to bringing on the horror, as we all know that it is what you DON’T see that is truly terrifying. For the majority of the film there really is much that we do not see, but we all know better, which tells us there that really is something there, and when the curtain is lifted all hell and goose bumps break loose.
So given this is an M. Night Shyamalan story you may be curious about the film’s climax huh? Well, I will personally say that I found the film’s third act and ending sequences to be fantastic, however those of you who balk at the idea of the Devil and/or religion may be turned off a bit by the film’s closing scenes. Regardless, the horror is what matters, and the horror is there.
Overall, this is an enjoyable and gripping horror film that manages to keep your attention throughout its 80 minute runtime despite its simple story thanks to some unique and thought provoking elements thrown in. The direction and execution are top notch, and unlike most modern horror films…the horror is good, and definitely worthwhile.