Devil (2010) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

Once heralded director M. Night Shyamalan (The Last Airbender) takes a story credit and producer tag in this first entry in his Night Chronicles series. Devil begins with a Bible passage suggesting that Satan walks among us in human form. Immediately thereafter we are introduced to four people soon to be stranded in an elevator somewhere amongst the middle floors of a high-rise office building. As the story progresses it becomes increasingly apparent that one of the passengers is something other than human. A subplot involving two policeman investigating a troubling suicide is awkwardly interwoven into this silly film, Devil is reminiscent of Shyamalan’s The Happening in that it alternates from curiously watchable to howlingly absurd. Viewers unwilling to delve deep into suspension of disbelief will have an awfully difficult time finding much to admire in this so-called thriller.

If M. Night Shyamalan’s name hadn’t been attached to this project, it wouldn’t be anything more than a shoddy underwritten straight-to-DVD B level horror film. In its present state it’s an eminently watchable picture that is offset by preposterous turns in the screenplay and chock full of illogical decision by the main characters. The direction by John Erick Dowdle is sluggish and the acting for the most part is overwrought.

In the realm of ‘trapped’ films such as Cube, Buried and even Phone Booth, the central concept was backed by an intriguing dilemma and complex characters. In Devil we are presented with four characters of varying age, sex, and race. The screenplay does a good job of keeping you fairly surprised at the revelations that one of the passengers is a thief, the other a scam artist, another is a former thug and the last is the Devil himself. If it takes you more than fifteen minutes to figure out who is who than you’ve probably never seen a horror film before. If that’s the case then your exactly the demographic Devil is shooting for, knowledgable fans of the genre will recognize this for exactly what it is, the cinematic equivalent of those Goosebump novels popular with the tween crowds.

Director: John Erick Dowdle
Stars: Chris Messina, Caroline Dhavernas, Bokeem Woodbine

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