Saturday, April 16, 2011

Movie review -- Devil

Watched this movie on pay-per-view late last night and thought I'd share my thoughts on it.

When I saw it was written by M. Night Shyamalan I was worried since he's turned out a string of clunkers since Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. *groan* Don't even get me started on The Village.

But he did not direct this one, and that may be saving grace here. The story is very simple -- five people are trapped in an elevator, one of them may be the Devil himself, there to collect souls he wants. The question is which one is he?

The temp security guard with a backround in violence? The smarmy salesman with a history of rip-off schemes? The old lady pick pocket? The young hotty who marries for money then divorces? The mysterious guy in the hoody? Or is Satan simply hiding out in the elevator waiting to claim their souls? It really isn't clear until close to the end, and I like that. With such a small group to pick from it is difficult to keep things going in such a way that you're not sure. Shyamalan did this well in Sixth Sense, and pulls it off here.

The action starts the first time the lights go out. There's a sound, is it a growl, then the lights go on, and the hotty has a bite mark on her back. From there, in the claustraphobic setting, the passengers turn on one another. One by one they die, horribly, until only two are left. Is it the obvious one or the other? I was guessing right up until it was disclosed. Nice.

Outside the elevator is more characters and drama. There's the detective seemingly picked to investigate what's happening by chance. He's investigating a suicide when the call comes in. We learn his wife and child were killed by a hit-and-run driver 5 years before, who left a note on the back of a car wash coupon saying "I'm so sorry" he subesquently tried to drink himself to death and is currrently recovering from that.

The detective is dating a hot little CSI chick, his partner is non-descript save his porn star mustache. There's two security guards at the building watching what happens in the elevator, one of whom is hispanic and turns out to be the narrator of the movie.

That bit turns out to be both important and leads to one of the things I liked about the movie. The hispanic guy tells the detective about how his mother told him a bedtime story about how the Devil would come to claim souls. He's dismissed as a kook by everyone until things continue to escalate to the point where the detective begins to think there might be something to it. The guy tells him that everyone, including the detective, is there, watching, for a reason. But what is the reason?

It's good stuff right to the end. Except the end. Which I would have done differently. The closing scene was too sappy, something I've noticed in other movies by Shyamalan, he just can't pull the trigger on hardcore. Pity.

But what I liked -- the opening montage was shot with a simple camera trick that set the tone. A trick so simple, I wonder why it hasn't been used before. The carnage in the elevator is shot using the Blair Witch tactic -- screen goes black, sound effects, screaming, and then the lights go on and you see what just happened. It's done to excellent effect.

Also, the idea of having the two security guys watching what happens on the elevator's camera was a nice touch of helplessness. And, I mentioned earlier, one bit I liked was at one point, as the guys are watching, the lights go out, and the hispanic guy thinks he sees an image of Satan in the monitor. The other guy thinks he's nuts, but when the video is rewound, there it is. They could have gone for the Mulder and Scully effect where only one partner sees the creepy stuff and the other thinks his partner is nuts. I hate that! The security guard even shows the image to the detective to make his point about what's happening. It's a little detail, but something that made the movie more enjoyable to me.

None of the current rage of rapid fire jump cuts, no shaky cam, just well done straight forward shooting, editing, and directing. Like I said, the answer here might be to keep Shyamalan out of the director's chair from now on. Let someone else interpret his vision. Cast with a few relatively familiar faces, mostly bit part actors, the only name I could call out was Bokeem Woodbine, who seems relegated to small parts after bursting on the scene some years ago. Pity. I love the guy's voice.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by this movie and would recommend it to anyone who likes horror/mystery type flicks. There's a bit at the bottom of the movie poster about The Night Chronicles beginning. Perhaps this is the first of more edgy stuff from Shyamalan. If he continues down this road, he may just restore his reputation a bit in the industry. And as a fan of horror movies, I'd be pleased to see some new ideas on the screen.

This is a reprint of a post on my old blog at Blogstream. I've a couple of others I'll be moving over here, just because I don't want to lose them.

Did you find this review helpful? Check out my other reviews for my thoughts on the flicks and the occasional gallery of hotness that accompanies them:

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