Sunday, September 19, 2010


First off, let me be clear that Devil is far and away the best thing to have M. Night Shyamalan's name attached since 2002's Signs. With The Village, Lady in the Water, The Happening, and The Last Airbender all being unmitigated abominations that make you want to travel back through time to assassinate the inventor of film I know that isn't saying a whole hell of a lot, but in mercifully retreating from behind the camera to the positions of story writer and producer M. Night has actually masterminded a taut and reasonably watchable piece of B-movie horror pulp.

You don't have to scour the internet long to find countless reviews that boil down to "hurr M. Night Shyamaladingdog, worst movie EVAR, right guys?!!", but I assure you that these can all be discounted as the babblings of people physiologically incapable of forming their own opinions. If M. Night's name wasn't attached none of these reviews would be a tenth as scathing (and a lot would probably be flat-out positive), and that's simply a fact. I'm not saying Devil's great or even significantly good but as far as horror goes I'll take it over another derivate slasher flick in a heartbeat.

The plot is as follows: five strangers get on an elevator, the elevator gets stuck between floors, then bad stuff happens. I'm not going to say any more. This is a movie singularly reliant on the suspense of who's going to make it and the twists and revelations of the final act — I don't think it's a spoiler that there are twists, as any simpleton could guess that from the trailer even without M. Night's name attached — and because of that I doubt I'm ever going to watch it again, but if you have any inclination whatsoever you must go in knowing as little as possible (although, for the record, the trailer is surprisingly not bad at all in terms of spoilers, giving away not a single key event beyond the fifteen-minute mark).

The performances and cinematography are serviceable and unremarkable, as befits what is basically a modern Twilight Zone episode blown up to eighty minutes. Logan Marshall-Green stands out the most as a sort of poor man's Jeremy Renner, and I wouldn't mind seeing him in more films, albeit probably not in leading roles. The film's biggest problem by far is a constant, hideous stream of superfluous voiceover narration from a supporting character about his mom's bedtime stories on the Devil. I don't hate voiceover as much as Robert McKee and could name dozens of projects that put it to brilliant use (Arrested Development being the king), but this is absolutely not one of them, particularly when it poisons what would have been a perfectly acceptable ending.

I'd probably be fairly positive on Devil if it were a TV movie. Hell, if you cut it down to an hour, removed every hint of the voiceover, and aired it on the retardedly-named Syfy channel I might be heartily recommending it. As is I can't quite make the leap to advising you shell out the money and gasoline to see it in theaters (although, without specifics, I can say there was a pretty satisfying full-theater gasp in the third act, something that certainly can't be said for any slasher movie I've seen lately), but if they ever put it on Netflix View Instantly you could do worse on a free rainy evening.

And when I say "you could do worse," I'm referring to every Friday the 13th movie, almost every Nightmare on Elm Street after the first, the last two Final Destinations, Sorority Row, every Saw, Paranormal Activity, The Last Exorcist, The Fourth Kind, Cabin Fever, Piranha 3D, The Devil's Rejects, Hellraiser, Hostel, House of Wax, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream 3, I Am Legend, Number 23, and, except for the special effects, Hollow Man. Just, you know, so we're clear. That most horror movies are bad. Sorry to blow your mind, horror fans!

2 Stars out of 5

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