From the mind of M. Night Shymalan comes a new thriller with a hellish premise.
Devil has a wickedly interesting premise: five people are trapped in an elevator, and one of them happens to be the devil.
Of course, the characters don’t know this as soon as we do. That’s the advantage of being the viewer.
Not only do we know what we’re getting into it, but we get the joy of seeing everyone else slowly realize what’s happening.
Naturally, there’s the religious character that immediately jumps to the conclusion that El Diablo is the culprit behind the stuck elevator, no matter how crazy that idea sounds to everyone else.
When he wrote it, Shymalan expected this to springboard into a horror anthology franchise called The Night Chronicles. He had talked that Devil was a prequel of sorts to his forth-coming sequel to Unbreakable. After seeing, I have no idea what that connection might have been. Not to mention Devil was also supposed to be directed by Shymalan but he chose to do The Last Airbender instead. Shymalan’s thoughts were all over the place when it came to creating this and you can see it in the film’s story.
By the end of Devil, so many bizarre things have happened that it’s not insane to blame supernatural elements, but that’s at the end of the movie.
This security guard sees a technical mishap – one that’s not uncommon in buildings with elevators – and starts quoting a spooky story that his grandmother told him when he was a child. I know that he was ultimately right, but that doesn’t make him any less irrational. There are irrational people in this world, but this guy is “movie irrational,” which means that he’s far too smart to act so stupid.
In fact, his entire purpose is transparent and trite. The movie begins with him narrating, telling the tale his grandmother told him. He then acts as sort of a supernatural adviser to the lead detective in the film. The detective dismisses the devil theory as hogwash, but as expected, slowly comes around. But the way his mind changes doesn’t seem forced. Instead, he approaches the situation logically, at least as logically as possible. What if the devil is in fact in that elevator? The detective’s struggle with an unbelievable obstacle makes for compelling viewing and is far more interesting than what is actually taking place inside of the elevator.
One area where Devil completely fails is on the horror front. We’re taught early on that when the lights go out, something spooky happens.
So we learn to brace for impact whenever it gets dark, greatly lessening the impact of whatever takes place. The lights go out, we hear a few thumps. The lights come on, a character is dead. It almost becomes comical in its predictability. Looking back, I’m not sure there was a single unexpected death in the entire movie.
The problem with this synopsis is that it’s a question: which elevator occupant is secretly the devil? It’s a question that people will be trying to answer all throughout the film, resulting in a massive distraction.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take part in it. It’s just too fun to not do. But when you spend the entire movie guessing the outcome, you’re bound to be letdown, especially when it’s the outcome that you’ve expected all along.
Devil is a cool premise that’s let down by cliched and predictable plot developments. It’s not a total waste of time, but don’t expect anything particularly scary and certainly don’t expect it to be as clever as the premise would have you assume.
3 out of 5
“Our guest writer, Dylan Duarte, is a horror buff and writer who writes about Halloween costumes. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.”