Five people, who have become trapped in an elevator in an office building, become increasingly aware of an evil presence as tensions rise. Directed by John Erick Dowdle with the story and concept created by M. Night Shyamalan. Devil is an inclusion in the ‘Night Chronicles’ a collection of thriller and horror films conceived and produced by Shyamalan.
Running only eighty minutes, Devil seems like it would be a very short and simple movie. Although this is true the film is very evenly paced, not seeming too long or drawn out. If the director chose to carry the film on for another twenty minutes the film would seem tedious and would lose impact. The film is set mostly in the elevator with the five ill-fated attendants; there are a few exceptions in the film of other environments that the supporting cast interact with. So therefore there are limited scenarios that can be created to obtain a larger run time.
Being that Devil is a thriller there are obvious plot devices that are exploited within the confined set. Darkness and claustrophobia being the two used the most. As obvious as they may be they are used rather well and don’t seem too forced. The use of religious symbolism however seems very simplistic and cliché’ but with an abundance of such symbolism in movies of late its easy for an audience to become desensitised to them, i.e. Inverted crosses and demonic faces appearing in electrical equipment. Other aspects of the film seem quite simple also, for example the characters interactions and the police investigation sub plot, however it is the characters themselves that make these scenarios interesting.
The Police detective being the most intriguing of the bunch with his sub plot explored the most, reacts naturally to his surroundings. The characters within the elevator also react naturally to their predicament, wether it be frantic or calculating, so as not to distance the audience from the central theme of isolation. Devil is a mystery thriller, a ‘who done it’ movie that is supposed to keep you guessing who or what is tormenting these seemingly innocent people. A simplistic plot may annoy some, who have come to find Shyamalan’s work to be predicable, but there are some solid performances and reactions that still make you second-guess what it is you think you have figured out. It isn’t whether you have guessed who the culprit is; it is how you came to the conclusion that makes these movies so interesting. The mystery genre has already fallen into familiarity from its overused formula of “always the one you least expect” but with Devil you are given other mysteries to solve to preoccupy your mind and keep you entertained.
The problem of course in assessing any movie within this genre is accidentally giving anything away. All I can really say is this film surprised me in parts and felt so familiar in others. I believe that the interesting use of aerial sweeps and minimal use of sounds spikes to induce jump scares gave the film a sense of class. The lighting was a mix of dull shades and erratic strobing that made parts of the film feel frantic, however the strobing wasn’t used at the right times for full effect. The violence does not seem gratuitous and actors rarely overact depending of course on their current predicament. Most of Devil makes a lot of sense probably because it is so simple it does however wrap everything up very quickly so don’t blink or you will miss it.
A much harder movie to review if one does not want give away any spoilers. Devil is an entertaining addition to the mystery thriller genre but not a movie that lingers after viewing.
I give Devil 3 stars.