Ten Word or Less Review: What Satan does with a day off.
Five people get in an elevator, one of them is Satan. That’s the plot of Devil. It’s the kind of ridiculous, silly concept which can work like cinematic gangbusters when put in the right hands. Nothing is better for creating movie tension than bickering strangers, intense claustrophobia and mounting fear. What has to worry you though is that this idea comes from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan. The one time directorial wonder kid now turned poisonous hack, Shyamalan sets off every warning light when anything springs forth from his corrupted noggin. But Devil shows that maybe when his ideas are directed by others, here by John Dowdle, perhaps the gimmicky nature of his effort can be turned into a worth while effort.
When five seemingly random individuals get on an elevator they aren’t on it long before it stops dead and everything begins to come apart for our trapped dupes. Lights flicker, they get annoyed with each other, they do nothing to establish trust between themselves, then someone gets bit. On the other side of the elevator building security, maintenance and police officers scramble to get them out to no avail. As the somber narrator informs us, there’s little to be done, this elevator will be Satan’s playground for the day. It seems the hooved one enjoys spending an afternoon torturing the corrupted souls among us. The people on this elevator have dirty secrets and Beelzebub is going to spend this particular day grinding their spirits into dust, then revel in killing them one by one. One would feel safe assuming Satan would have bigger fish to fry but we can only speculate that the penultimate evil being of the cosmos must occasionally like to take a day off to appreciate the smaller things. Like killing assholes in an elevator.
Devil , the first of what is supposed to be a series dubbed The Night Chronicles, was mostly marginalized and shrugged off upon it’s release. While it is no genre defining, groundbreaking masterpiece, it is a tightly constructed, wound up work of tension. Shyamalan, here a writer and producer, has wisely put Devil in the hands of another director. Running a scant 75 minutes, director Dowdle has no fat at all on his story. It simply starts and goes and doesn’t stop, leaving the audience no time to question the dubious nature of the story. It gets off to a disorienting beginning as a typical fly over shot of Philadelphia gets turned upside down, literally. From that cool beginning Devil economically works along to make the audience guess and squirm, doing both reasonably well. A few characters do a few stupid things, power line and water dumbass, and our folks in the elevator shouldn’t have to be told to take out their phones to use as flashlights, but on the whole nothing back breakingly idiotic ruins the scenario.
As I said, there’s really not a lot to blow a viewer away, but with Shyamalan involved Devil feels like the F student in your classroom suddenly turned in a C+ paper. Yeah, it is only a C+ paper, but considering the source, you can do nothing but be stupefied by the adequate results. Maybe M. Night is coming out of the fog which has ruined his reputation, or maybe he just wasn’t involved enough to screw things up.