MyView: Devil


In Short: Devil, story by M. Night Shyamalan, screenplay by Brian Nelson (Hard Candy) and directed by John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine, The Dry Spell), circles around five people trapped in an elevator, the two security guards who discover that the elevator is stuck and the cop with a past who answers the call for aid (when something Unexpected happens in said elevator).

Story: The movie begins with a suicide, which introduces us to the cop with a past as he’s investigating it, quickly showing off his smarts as he puts two and two together and concludes that the dead guy, who must have jumped from a great height given the state of the van he landed on, actually leaped off of the skyscraper a hundred feet away, the van having rolled the distance and ended up where he and his colleague are now standing. The skyscraper, of course, is where we set our scene.

Introduced in the lobby of the skyscraper are the five players about to enter the elevator: the security guard, the hot girl, the quiet type, the elderly lady and the asshole. Now this Unexpected happens as they’re on their way up and get stuck. Well, the first unexpected thing would be getting stuck, but the second unexpected thing happens soon after; unexpected to the five players, but not to us – the watchers of a horror film. Someone dies. Yes, there is build-up; there are a few placements of character revelation; and when the lights flicker off we – the watchers of a horror film – can see the death coming even through the pitch blackness of the screen.

By now the two security guards are following everything on one of their tiny TV’s and after the killing they, naturally, alert the police and our cop with a past appears on the scene. The past of the cop is that his wife and child were killed by a hit and run. The young security guard is the narrator (the voice telling us about the devil and his antics, that he dresses in human garbs and comes to torture the souls he is about to claim).

First Impression: Though the first image to hit us is an upside down fly-over shot of Philadelphia, which is startling and delightfully original (at least to this viewer), following it is the narrator with his exposition of what the devil wants and why and how he gets it. Even the next scene of the jumper smashing into the van has the prelude of the narrator telling us it’s going to happen, completely taking away the impact of what could have been a rather unsettling moment. This exposition before events continues throughout the movie and the narrator takes away rather than adding depth or understanding and is like an annoying little buzzing ruining the moment.

It’s as though the FilmCrew has forgotten completely the art of suspense, that what we don’t know is what keeps us at the edge of our seats. Either that or they don’t trust that their audience is clever enough to follow their storytelling. (I’m here to tell you, boys: we are.)

Devil tries, but fails fairly early on to stay interesting enough to actually be scary. Not only because of some annoying clichés that glare their presence, like the Innocent getting hurt (which is also narrated before it happens, in case we didn’t already see it coming. Or is it so we won’t get too scared?) to the security guards Regular Joe Factor shown through them watching sports on one of their monitors. The acting is terrific, but since everyone’s a suspect you don’t really connect with anyone apart from the cop and the security guards and so you feel cut off from the five players which made me, at least, not really care that they’re under attack from the devil. I suppose this is also due to the fact that I know exactly what’s going to happen – since it’s freaking narrated to me.

Yeah, not a fan of the narration.

M. Night Shyamalan is known for his non-scary scary movies, but there’s not even a glimpse of the unease of Sixth Sense or the original approach to sci-fi in Signs or the tension of The Village in this film. For something marketed as a scary-scary movie, it doesn’t hit the mark even once. Even the twist at the end was evident half-way into the movie, and twist endings used to be Shyamalan’s strength.

Psychologically Devil could have been an interesting take on opposing characters, the devil’s game being to play at their weaknesses, pressing their buttons, slowly breaking them down one by one, but this is not what this movies is trying to do; emotionally it could have pushed to put us in the place of the players, made us relate to them in more ways than simply the thought of being trapped in an elevator with flickering lights that means someone’s getting sliced and diced, but that’s not what this movie emphasizes and because of this the terror is lacking.

Well, I didn’t feel terrorized.

The message that the sin we commit and our unreadiness to take responsibility for it is what opens us up to the devil is as on the nose as the rest of the movie, and as such it doesn’t make me repent the way that I suspect Shyamalan intended.

Second Impression: Not likely.

2 PawPrints out of 5:

 

 

 

 

If you want to watch a really good horror film that will entice as much as have you reaching for a pillow, have a look at these:

  • The Exorcism of Emily Rose
  • A Tale of Two Sisters
  • The Others
  • 28 Days Later
  • The Exorcist
  • The Orphanage
  • The Ring
  • An American Werewolf in London
  • Deep Blue Sea
  • Brotherhood of the Wolf
  • The Shining
  • The Sixth Sense
  • Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
  • Ghostbusters I and II
  • Lake Placid
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~ by mescribe on December 19, 2010.

4 Responses to “MyView: Devil”

  1. I hadn’t even heard of Devil. It stinks that you were disappointed because several of M. Night Shyamalan’s movies are good.

    The Orphanage was awesome!

    • Haha, that doesn’t bode well for the “Night Chronicles” – which is M. Night Shyamalan’s new project. 🙂 I agree with you about Shyamalan’s previous work (like Sixth Sense and Signs), but it started going downhill with Lady In the Water, at least to me.

      I also happily agree with you: The Orphanage = awesomeness!

  2. I never saw the Orphanage. I’ll have to rent it. You know which movie of his I happen to love even though I think it got poor reviews? Lady in the Water. I thought it was very smartly done and really well acted. Did you see that one? Thoughts?

    • Oh, yes, the Orphanage is a wonderful film. It manages to be scary, but also moving, which I love.

      I do have my qualms with Lady in the Water, I have to say. Mostly because I don’t understand Shyamalan’s sudden urge to tell the entire story of this mysterious girl in the first three minutes of the film. I felt the whole backbone of the movie was just splayed open and I instantly knew what was going to happen in the story, and that took away the thrill for me completely. I also found it annoying that he had such a big part to play in it. It felt self-indulgent. 🙂

      I love The Sixth Sense, Signs, The Village and Unbreakable, though. 🙂

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