Despite my initial distaste for Mr. Shyamalan, I fell prey to some solid recommendations for the film "Devil" (here's looking at you Kimberly), and knowing that he only came up with the 'story' I decided to take a gander at this little indie horror film. On the bright side, it was surprisingly good at doing its little thing and getting some solid tense moments into the film. On the flip side, it still never feels like it is able to overcome some of its flaws or brush them over with how good the rest is, thusly giving us a film that is good but rarely reaches great.
Five strangers all entire a large office complex for various personal reasons. Each of these people are your average (and thusly not the most truthful) individual going about their business. One of them just happens to be the Devil and he wants to play a game. So he traps them in an elevator for the world to see and begins to toy with them before taking their souls. Now its up a smarmy and doubtful cop (Messina) to put it all together and try to save them before the Devil takes them all.
I really do love the concept for "Devil". It's like watching a really good "Twilight Zone" or even a lighter "Tales From The Crypt" episode. It really embraces and utilizes its PG-13 rating to its fullest, having most of the disturbing elements done in the dark and left up for the viewers imagination which works well, and it does a fine job keeping the game going. Not that I would particularly want to play musical chairs with the Devil who slaughters you when the music stops (or in this case the lights go out), but it was a solid time watching these semi-unrighteous folks go through the ordeal. I also think that "Devil" did an admirable job taking us out from the elevator (where the film could have gotten REALLY long) and out by bringing in a cop as our 'true' protagonist to root for. It was a smart move that really upped the ante on the debacle at hand.
Although I praise the film for feeling like a great anthology episode from some classic series, this is also perhaps its biggest flaw. The film simply isn't deep enough or complicated enough to carry itself for the entire time. A lot of the film's elements felt like padding for time and additional depth as it desperately tried to complicate matters and give us more to 'boo' moments (like our lead security guard's shocking demise for one). It's hit or miss acting and red herrings also tending to crack the foundation a little bit (again as it tried to add more to a rather cut and dry story). It's as if the makers were just a little afraid of giving us too much of an up front story and felt the need to try and give it more impact, which in turn only took away the impact.
"Devil" is a pretty solid horror film and one of the bigger surprises of the year (although I was still more surprised with the quality of "Altitude"). I'm not sure how much Shyamalan had to do with "Devil" but considering they attached his name to it, I would go as far to say its the best thing he's been attached to in a long time. It's a great little watch and definitely worth the purchase for those who aren't turned off by its supposed "lack of scares".
BONUS RANT: The narration somewhat irritated me throughout the film though. It starts off solid but its continued use (despite the character narrating from the future BEING RIGHT THERE AT THE TIME) seems too inconsistent and rather misplaced. It would have been a nice bookend to the film but its overused and underused at the same time.
Written By Matt Reifschneider