An intimate little horror
that has some spooky moments but fails to live up to its billing.
is the first film out of the stables of The
Night Chronicles, a series of films dreamt up by The Sixth Sense’s (1999) M. Night (see his name is in there,
clever right?) Shyamalan but,
crucially, directed by other filmmakers. In many ways it makes sense that
Shyamalan, someone who clearly models himself on the great Alfred Hitchcock, should create a M. Night Presents style output in
order to air as many of his twisty turny plot devices as possible. What makes
less sense is that he would chose to direct The Last Airbender rather than
focus on films like Devil, which is clearly more to his strengths.
film follows five people as they embark on an elevator ride up a building in
Philadelphia. As the lift comes to an unscheduled stop it becomes clear that
something is amiss. While they begin to bicker, local cop Bowden (Messina) tries to figure out a way of
getting them down. That is until the lights start to flicker and one by one the
occupants of the lift begin to die. What Bowden begins to believe is that one
of the five is in fact the Devil in human form come to earth to take the souls
of a group of sinners.
It is fair to say that with
its confined space and limited plot Devil reads like an episode of The Outer
Limits or The Twilight Zone. Yes you never know where it is going and it will
keep you guessing, but it fails to truly engage for its full running time.
Instead it grasps at sub-plots to pad it out, like a security guard feeling the
need to step in a puddle of water while an electrical cable fizzes nearby or an
opening suicide that seems to hold no relevance to the eventual plot. In other words the concept, like the gang
in the elevator, has nowhere to go.
the plus side though director Dowdle, who did a solid job on REC (2007) remake
Quarantine (2008), creates enough atmospherics and tension to keep the story
ticking along. From his opening aerial
shots of an upside-down Philadelphia to his claustrophobic framing in the lift
it is his visuals that create much of the intrigue. At times the script
forces him to resort to gimmicks such as flickering lights but in doing so he
does draw us into the fear of the characters rather than the horror that is
cast are never asked to do more than look apprehensive and those in the lift
are intentionally designed to be unlikeable, but Messina does enough to be a
focal point for the audience. From Detective Bowden’s opening Sherlock Holmes
powers of investigation you always route for him to get to the bottom of
things. Meanwhile Logan Marshall-Green,
looking like a better-groomed Tom Hardy, finds enough ambiguity in his
character to make you hope he is not the Devil in the lift.
concept is solid but the script fails to extract the most from it. However,
Devil could prove to be a worthy first attempt in The Night Chronicles and
works well as a who-dunnit with a difference. You know what they say, the Devil is in the detail and this Devil lacks
a few key points but still has the power to seduce.