Thursday, November 14, 2013

Devil (2010)

Devil starts with what I think is an intriguing premise - several people get stuck in an elevator, and one of them is the devil in disguise. As the victims gradually get picked off during intermittent blackouts, the candidates for the identity of the killer (whether supernatural or not) are reduced until there's only one left. But what could potentially be a fun game of "guess the killer/devil" is undermined by the realization that if the devil could just as easily disguise himself as any one of these people, then does it even really matter who it is? Thus, the film's mystery (towards which a lot of narrative effort is expended) largely fails to captivate.

Even more egregious an error is that instead of leaving it as a horrifying tale of the fear and chaos the devil is capable of instilling in the hearts of men, the film chooses to construct a morality tale that is as disappointing as the conclusion to M. Night Shyamalan (whose name not-so-coincidentally appears in the credits to Devil as a producer and the one responsible for the "story")'s movie Signs. The devil character himself suffers from inconsistent (but common among religionists) characterization - is his purpose to sow discord and despair, or to administer divine justice to sinners who deserve their punishment?

Meanwhile, the presence of the one character who just happens to know exactly what is going on the whole time, because of a fairy tale his mother told him as a child, even down to the details that essentially explain the "rules" the devil follows (in a world with no shortage of different interpretations of religious mythology), feels extremely contrived, in a way that recalls (but isn't even moderately as forgivable as) that other M. Night Shyamalan movie, Lady in the Water. Finally, for a movie about people stuck in an elevator with the devil, the narrative potential for a descent into the very bowels of hell is completely wasted.

It's too bad Devil isn't a better movie than it is. It does succeed in weaving together a concise story from start to finish, which is not always easy to do, but it just doesn't feel like it's quite good enough for me to care. And there are some sequences that do actually approach scary, but not nearly enough horror for a movie about the devil. It was a good premise, but it wasn't taken far enough, and the strong moral focus seriously maims its impact. You might want to give it a watch sometime, but don't expect too much from it.


  1. I was very disappointed with Devil. Like you, I thought it was an awesome premise but then when the security guy brought out the crucifix and started spitting platitudes I just couldn't handle it. Too Left Behind, not enough Twilight Zone. I don't even think I finished the movie...

    For an (only moderately) better stuck-in-an-elevator movie, Elevator (2012) was pretty decent. There's also another elevator movie called Blackout (2008) which I'd like to watch someday.

  2. I'll have to take a look at those.