Devil was born out of a fairly simple premise from the mind of producer M. Night Shyamalan but it’s aided by an appropriately creepy score, plenty of shocking twists and an old-school horror feel, proving once again that it is really all about the execution.
The film is the first in Shyamalan’s The Night Chronicles trilogy, with the second one, Reincarnate, being released sometime next year and telling the story of a jury being haunted by supernatural forces while deciding the fate of an accused murderer. I’m hoping for something resembling 12 Angry Men meets The Poltergeist, but we’ll figure that out sometime in 2011. The third in the series will reportedly build on ideas Shyamalan originally intended for a sequel to Unbreakable. Anyway, let’s get back to Devil.
It’s basically a concept thriller, with five strangers being trapped in an elevator and the devil presumably amongst them. The opening voiceover tells us some mumbo-jumbo about the devil coming to Earth every so often to take on human form and punish the living.
Chris Messina, who I thought was the most enjoyable part of Julie & Julia, is also really good here as the detective brought in when the elevator passengers start dropping. Someone get him a real vehicle because this is a guy justbegging for a breakout role. He could be a star given the right material.
Messina’s character is a recovering alcoholic, and it doesn’t take long to figure out that he is in some way connected to this whole ordeal. He treats this as a murder investigation, but we and the religious Mexican security guard in the film all know there’s a lot more to it.
The rest of the no-name ensemble is pretty mediocre with the exception of Logan Marshall-Green, who looks like an American version of Tom Hardy (Inception). He’s the type of guy who I could see starring in a superhero franchise or an action blockbuster a few years down the road.
I’d liken the film to a more interesting version of Final Destination. The fun in these movies has always been the way we get to play along and take on the role of detective. Who’s the devil? Who’s going to die next? What’s their motivation? Most of the thrills come in teases, and the film is really effective in setting you up and keeping you guessing.
I loved the film’s opening titles, which reminded me of something we’d see in an old Polanski movie. And come to think of it, Devil has much of the same effect as a movie like Rosemary’s Baby in being extremely claustrophobic and forcing us to question whether or not we believe these supernatural occurrences are happening. The cinematography from frequent Shyamalan collaborator Tak Fujimoto (Signs, The Sixth Sense) is exceptional and features a fair amount of grain, helping to maintain that throw-back vibe.
Lastly, I’d like to note that even though the film is rated PG-13, it doesn’t feel the least bit watered down. There’s even a surprising amount of blood, which just goes to show what you can get away with if you simply omit all the f-bombs from your screenplay.