Director: Drew Dowdle & John Dowdle
Producer: M. Knight Shyamalan & Sam Mercer
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Distributor: Universal Studios
Release Date: September 17, 2010
Runtime: 80 Minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Starring: Chris Messina, Geoffrey Arend, Logan Marshall-Green, Jenny O’Hara, Bojana Novakovic, and Bokeem Woodbine.
Devil opens to find five Philadelphia office workers filing into the elevator of an inner-city office building. But a typical day at the office takes a sudden detour into terror when the elevator becomes stuck between floors, and the passengers discover that the Devil does exist, and he’s standing right before them. As emergency workers work frantically to free them, secrets are revealed and the passengers realize their only hope for survival is to confront their darkest sins in front of the others.
Clocking in at only 80 minutes, the M. Knight Shyamalan produced Devil is a fast moving supernatural horror/suspense film, and one of the better film’s baring Mr. Shyamalan’s name in quite many years. Five strangers, a mechanic, a guard, an old woman, a young woman and a salesman, are stuck in an elevator in a high rise office tower in Philadelphia. Besides having to endure truly awful elevator music, there are intermittent power cuts that leave them all standing absolute darkness. Oh, yeah, when the lights go out something or someone attacks them. Their only link to the world outside is the elevator security camera and the people on the other side of that camera, including Philadelphia police detective Bowden. The people trapped in the elevator can hear their observers, but their observers can only see, but not hear, them. Each time the lights go out, the attacks get more and more violent. It starts out as a loud noise and then someone gets cut. From that point on every flicker of the elevator lights induces panic. It’s a great setup, and Devil’s abbreviated length keeps this premise fresh where a longer film might have caused it to overstay its welcome.
Any discussion of the plot of Devil treads dangerously close to spoiler territory as most of Devil’s enjoyment stems from its who-done-it plot elements. Discovering how these people come to be stuck in the elevator, how they are all connected and figuring out whom or what is attacking them in the dark encompasses most of the Devil experience. Imagine if prior to seeing the Sixth Sense, The Usual Suspects or Se7en, someone told you how they ended or what the major plot reveal is, or worse if someone told you what the matrix was before you saw the Matrix? Now Devil’s big reveal or ending probably doesn’t rate up there with The Usual Suspects’, especially with a more sophisticated movie audience used to shock endings, or unexpected plot twists, but it did manage to keep me guessing until the end. Based on that alone, I recommend seeing Devil.
Strong performances by an ensemble cast, without any big name actors added to the film. For a bit of the film, there’s a sense that it could be any of us stuck in the elevator being terrorized by an unknown force. As the story goes on though, you may be able to dissociate yourself because one of the plot elements is that ***SPOILER ALERT*** everyone in the elevator is a bad person, or a “sinner” for lack of a better term. Who they are and what they did is part of why they find themselves tormented in an elevator dangling 20 stories. ***END SPOILER***
In the end Devil succeeds in taking a simple premise, being stuck in an elevator with 4 strangers, and turns it into a great horror movie. It feeds on the common fear of tight spaces and augments that fear by adding an element of terror that only comes when the lights go out, playing on our fears of the dark. Devil is a solid horror film that should keep you guessing until the end. I think I’ll be taking the stairs whenever I can from now on.
FTC Advisory: We purchased our own tickets.
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