Devil (2010) Dir: John Erick Dowdle.Rated PG-13, for violence and disturbing images, thematic material and some language including sexual references.
This film is currently playing in theaters.
Directed by John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine), written by Brian Nelson (30 Days of Night) based on a story by M. Night Shyamalan, who also produced, Devil takes place with five people-a security guard (Bokeem Woodbine), a young lady (Bojana Novakovic), a middle aged lady (Jenny O’Hara), a salesman (Geoffrey Arend), and a hooded young man (Logan Marshall-Green)–stuck in an elevator. As time passes by, a person inside gets killed off every time the lights go out. One of the security guards operating the security camera believes, based on a tale his mother told him as a child, that one of the five is the Devil who is killing each other off. Meanwhile, Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) tries to dig deeper into the history of the five passengers while trying to find a way to get them out of there.
When I saw the trailer, and read that M. Night Shyamalan was involved, despite his reputation as of late, it intrigued me somewhat. My first reaction was probably that it’ll have a twist ending. It looked low-budget and perhaps more character-driven, perhaps a film more about human nature instead of people just getting killed off by bad guys. And, this time, it had a different director, which sounded more like a collaborative effort (which can be a good thing).
After having seen the film, I found it to be an interesting little thriller, and a little different than usual. The five characters trapped in the elevator annoy and distrust each other, each of them with a little bit of baggage behind them. The whole situation reminded me of the Twilight Zone episode, Five Characters In Search of an Exit…except each of them get killed off one by one. The story is indeed more about people and their responsibility for their pasts, which I found to be an intriguing subject.
It isn’t particularly a scary film, but director John Erick Dowdle does a competent job with the material. The atmosphere is, of course, claustrophobic. The building looks sleek and almost futuristic. The film does feel low-budget, admittedly, as much of the film takes place in one area and majority of the characters are not well-known nor do they give stand out performances. And, admittedly, they don’t always react realistically in regards to such extreme situations. There’s a suicide jump through a window at a corportate building which seem strangely unnoticed by many people in such an urban area. There’s some violence and blood as certain characters get killed off in different ways, but much of it happens pretty quickly. The film isn’t particularly shocking or terrifying, but still unnerving.
Admittedly, I couldn’t help but notice the rather generic dialogue. It gets the story going, but doesn’t really bring us close to the characters. The characters have a slight B-movie quality to them–they’re interesting, but not detailed. Chris Messina is competent as Detective Bowden and Geoffry Arend provides much humor as a mattress salesman. Bokeem Woodbine does fine as a claustrophobic security guard. The female casts feel a little underwritten. I think the deaths would have more drama if we knew the characters better.
Overall, while I wasn’t at the edge of my seat, I was still entertained. There were some pacing issues whenever the film focused outside the events of the elevator. The police investigation regarding the passengers’ history felt tacked on, and even when the characters’ secrets were uncovered, it was not quite as shocking. There is a reveal at the end somewhat, but not what I would call a twist, per se. Or, at least the film itself is not so much about the twist. It isn’t so much about the horror, either. Shyamalan seems to have a somewhat different approach, which is novel. This is supposed to be the first film of a trilogy called Night Chronicles, each directed by different people based on Shyamalan’s story. I’m actually quite interested to see what the next film will be about, which is a good sign.
My Rating: **1/2 out of ****