The most interesting film about people trapped in an elevator that you'll ever see!
Review by Throwback
You might have heard the stories or seen the YouTube videos about when the trailer for Devil first premiered. People in the audience began laughing when M. Night Shyamalan’s name appeared on the screen. That was promoted as an example of how far MNS had fallen since taking the world by storm with The 6th Sense. Let me say now that I celebrate the man’s entire catalog. Well, except for The Happening, which couldn’t have been worse even if Adam Sandler had been in it, and Lady in the Water, which was just kind of...well, lame. That one movie aside, I find all of his other works to range from decent (Last Airbender) to phenomenal (Unbreakable).
Shyamalan is listed as a writer and producer, so it has a lot of his fingerprints. It’s a weird, supernatural thriller for sure. However, where his other works just sort of masquerade as horror movies, Devil is the real deal. Anyone who has seen the previews knows that it’s about a group of individuals trapped together on an elevator. As they start dying in gruesome fashion, they realize that one of them is an inhuman murderer. What the trailers don’t show is that the religious subtext is revealed immediately and is maintained throughout the movie.
You’ll recognize several cast members, but you won’t know their names. That’s not a bad thing. The performances were more than adequate with Logan Marshall-Green as probably the stand-out of the bunch in terms of what they bring in this film. When you consider that the most substantive parts of the plot are played out in a space barely large enough to fit the cast, it’s pretty amazing that the actors were able to make an impression at all. The drawback here is that with not a whole lot of “doing” that goes on, the dialogue has to be dynamite in every single scene to keep things sharp. When it doesn’t, the slip is even more glaring. There are a couple of such moments, and you can almost hear that “Wa-Waaaaah” in the background when they happen.
The rest of the actual film-making is pretty good, though. You’re never left wishing that the movie was over, which would have been really easy in a show set in a stuck elevator. The plot never bogs down into dead air. More importantly, the subplots involving the elevator’s outside observers are well-executed. They don’t get in the way or swallow up the main story. I don’t know anything else this John Dowdle guy directed, but he did a good enough job here that, if I saw his name attached to something else, I’d check it out. As a horror movie, the tone is enough to leave you creeped out for sure. This is to Dowdle’s credit far more than Shyamalan’s. He keeps the paranoia as the focus and doesn’t let things drag in between death scenes.
What you’ll find if you give Devil a shot, though, is a thoroughly Catholic movie. Sure, there’s the whole thing about a real demonic force showing up to torment people. Anybody can make a story about that. Usually awful ones. The presence of The Devil aside, what you have here is a movie about mercy and the kinds of actions that attract or repel evil. If you look carefully enough, this is where you see the common thread with MNS’s other works. Nothing is beyond the ability of a virtuous person (in the literal sense of a person exercising the virtues) to handle. I really wish I could say more, but I don’t want to spoil anything. And no, it’s not a twist. It’s just a good ending.
The rating folks got this one right with a PG-13. A woman is kind of immodestly dressed, but there’s no sexual content otherwise. The language has some mild profanities. No blasphemy at all. The deaths aren’t really shown, but you do see the graphic aftermaths. Several fights break out among the characters as well. Anybody teen and above should be okay here.
If you’re looking for a good movie, horror or otherwise, Devil will fit the bill. It’s solid on just about everything, and despite the weak moments mentioned above, makes for a deeper effort than what you typically see from this genre. I give it 2 tiaras out of 3.