Devil (2010): Good Night?

Based on a story written by M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable) and adapted for the screen by Brian Nelson (30 Days of Night, Hard Candy) and directed by John Erick Dowdle (QuarantineThe Poughkeepsie TapesDevil is ‘watered down’ Shyamalan.

Night who wrote the story with  Agatha Christie‘s book And Then There Were None as his template, married the plot with a fairytale about the Devil coming to Earth and torturing sinners. With most of the action taking place in an elevator, it makes for a claustrophobic tale of terror.

Unfortunately using a lift (elevator) as the setting for a ‘horror film’ is not unique. The vastly superior  2004 Japanese horror/science fiction film  Hellevator was set (apart from a very tiny portion of the film) entirely on an elevator. *On a side note – this Japanese film was made by a group of university students who had to tout tickets for its World Premier. Shot on what could be called the very epitome of a shoestring budget, the core set (the elevator scenes) was a 4×6 box that had removable sides. This ‘small’ student film builds more atmosphere and foreboding than most mainstream films on the market today.

Devil opens with a voice over telling the story of the Devil visiting sinners on earth. We are told by the narrator of the story that a suicide opens the door for the Devil to arrive. At this point in the film a man commits suicide by taking a high dive off of an office building where the story will take place.

The main cast of characters include an alcoholic cop who lost his wife and child in a hit and run years before – Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) and the five strangers who enter the elevator in the building (Logan Marshall-GreenJenny O’HaraBojana NovakovicBokeem WoodbineGeoffrey Arend). The last character of significance is Ramirez (Jacob Vargas) who is a security officer in the office building and who does the voice over at the beginning of the film.

In a nutshell, the cop is going to investigate something else when the leaper falls from the office building. The security officer is the one who realises that the events in the elevator and the office building are connected and supernatural in origin. The five occupants in the elevator are all ‘sinners’ with the degree of their ‘sin’ varying by each person. One of the occupants in the elevator is actually the Devil and one is connected to the alcoholic cop.

Whew.

The elevator with the captive audience of five, is trapped between floors. As they are waiting for the thing to be fixed, tensions mount and they start attacking one another. Verbally at first then physically and finally lethally. Each time the action  escalates in the elevator it’s preceded by the lights going out. When the lights come back on, someone has been physically attacked or another member of the group dies.

The whole thing hinges around who in the lift is the Devil. When we watched the movie at the cinema, my daughter and I picked out early on who we thought the Devil was. There is a plot twist in the film that, although it has been done before, still manages to surprise the viewer.

This film is worth watching as it is entertaining if not blazingly original. I cannot help but feel it would have been a lot better if Night himself had helmed the project and not just written the story it was based on. But as this was at a point in his career that ‘Night bashing’ was rife in the industry I am not surprised that he chose this route for his vision.

My final verdict is that it is a ‘one bagger’ of a film. One large bag of popcorn will easily see you through the film with it’s lack of jumps and popcorn tossing scares. Entertaining  but be glad you didn’t fork out the price of a cinema ticket.

M. Night Shyamalan
M. Night Shyamalan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)