Movie Number– 111
Title– Devil (2010)
Running Time– 80 minutes
Director– John Erick Dowdle
Writer– Brian Nelson (screenplay), M. Night Shyamalan (story)
Starring– Chris Messina, Bojana Novakovic, Jenny O’Hara, Bokeem Woodbine, Geoffrey Arend, Logan Marshall-Green
I might be one of the only two remaining M. Night Shyamalan supporters in existence (the other being Wolverinefactor), but there is no denying that Signs is one of my favorite movies of all-time, which forces me to check out most things with his name attached to them. Since The Village, Shyamalan has been writing/directing some less-than-stellar movies (Lady in the Water, The Happening, and Avatar: The Last Airbender). Taking a step back from directing, Shyamalan has written the story (not even the screenplay) for the latest thriller/horror movie entitled Devil. With a name like Devil, I expected religion to play a large part in the film, but I went in hoping that director John Erick Dowdle could rise above stereotypes and clichés, and deliver something worthwhile.
Akin to Phone Booth, the action in Devil takes place in mainly one, confined area; in this case it, is in an elevator. There is a suicide in a Philadelphian skyscraper, and the recovering alcoholic, Detective Bowden (Chris Messina), is called to the case. In the meantime, five strangers board an elevator, all with different motives. One of the five passengers motive is to cause as much murder and bloodshed as possible because they are the Devil. Detective Bowden must work quickly to get the elevator open and the passengers off safely. When dealing with a force as powerful as the Devil, though, this becomes harder than it may have first appeared.
My biggest complaint with Devil was how cliché so many of the plot lines were, and how overtly preachy the movie was throughout. The audience quickly comes to discover that Detective Bowden has more to him than just enjoying a cold beer or five, but his whole story seemed contrived and ridiculous in order to set up the religious message of the movie. I hate when this happens because I have seen it done a hundred times in the past, and usually better. I mentioned that Signs is one of my favorite films, so there is no doubt I can appreciate a religiously-themed movie even being as agnostic/non-theistic as I am. Signs was able to make the “there are no coincidences” motif seem less intrusive, though, because of how engaging Shyamalan made the alien’s story, and even more so, the Hess family’s story. The same cannot be said for the five people in the elevator (mostly dislikable characters), or Detective Bowden (his story was too cliché to enjoy). Without caring for the characters, the reason I kept watching was to find out who the Devil really was, and not much else.
Much like the forgettable story, the acting was nothing special either. Admittedly, the only actor I could place was Jenny O’Hara because she played Doug Heffernan’s mother in the TV series King of Queens. Some of the other actors were recognizable, but I wasn’t able to place where I had seen them previously. The lead character, Detective Bowden, was nothing more than “fine”, and most of the characters in the elevator were unable to rise above the lackluster scripting by Brian Nelson. There were two characters that stood out to me, though: the old woman in the elevator (played by Jenny O’Hara) and one of the security guards who worked at the building, named Lustig (played by Matt Craven). Craven was simple and effective with his supporting role, and his veteran prowess showed nicely from the start of the film. His role was a pleasant contrast from his partner Henry, played by Vincent Laresca. The same can be said for the experienced actor Jenny O’Hara, even if her character, like most, was written a bit one-dimensionally.
To be fair, there are some good things to say about Devil. One, the tense moments were done well, even if the film refused to show a death while it was occurring (death always happened in the darkness of the elevator, or off-camera, probably to maintain a PG-13 rating). Two, the movie does a good job of keeping the audience guessing on whom the Devil will actually be. I saw half of the ending coming from a mile away (even told my girlfriend about it about 30 minutes before it happened), but the other half of the ending was thrilling, even if Bridgette and I didn’t find it as outwardly shocking as the rest of the theatre patrons. I cannot give away anything else without breaking my “no spoilers” rule, so I will leave it at that.
My final recommendation of Devil would be to wait until the movie is out of theatres, and then add it to your Netflix queue because dropping $10 on a ticket is not worth it. There was nothing visually stunning about the movie to make it worth the trip to the theatre either. Devil was a disappointing sermon that left me longing for the days when M. Night Shyamalan’s stories were still fresh and unique (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs). Hopefully Shyamalan is just going through a rough few movies right now, and he will be back on top of the movie world in the future. In the meantime, I will still buy tickets for his movies, hoping that the next film is the film to put him back on the map.