Review A Day Presents: DEVIL (2010)

DEVIL (2010)



Written By Brian Nelson (Screenplay) and M. Night Shyamalan (Story)
Directed By John Erick Dowdle
Starring : Chris Messina, Caroline Dhavernas, and Bokeem Woodbine

Billed as being "from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan", DEVIL is more director John Erick Dowdles film than that of his uber-famous producer. Dowdle cut his teeth on the criminally underrated (and still unreleased) Poughkeepsie Tapes before perfecting the art of the claustrophobic thriller in 2008s QUARANTINE. Here Dowdle scales the scope of his film down from an entire disease infected building to one, single elevator, which happens to be inhabited by the Devil.

The films basic premise revolves around the belief that at any given moment the Devil can return just to fuck with humanity. This time he's chosen five deeply flawed people on an ill fated elevator ride. In 10 LITTLE INDIANS style, the Devil begins to methodically kill off each character every time the lights go out, while effectively hiding his identity. Each killing ratchets up the tension among those left living in the elevator and confusing the hell out of the Philadelphia SWAT team monitoring the bloodbath.

Brian Nelsons screenplay, based on Shyamalans idea is tight to say the least. The film wastes almost no time getting the main characters stuck in the elevator. In contrast the the equally superb FROZEN,where knowing the characters in imperative to liking them and therefore rooting for them, not knowing the characters adds to the tension, they are a blank canvas until the elevator gets stuck. This effectively establishes each one of the characters as a red herring at different points during the film. There are no obvious clues as to who the Devil is, no coy hints, or glaring plot points. Each character has a fundamental flaw that could be interpreted as a clue, but none of them is a dead give away. The questions mount as quickly as the body count does.

Unfortunately, the strength of the film, it's script, is also it's biggest failing. Whether pressed to add a "Shyamalan-esqe" ending to the film by its producer or just plum out of ideas, Nelsons "twist" feels a tad forced and pedestrian. After the Devil reveals himself the film takes a hard left, like a Twilight Zone episode on steroids, everything seems a bit too coincidental. Or maybe the Devil just wanted it that way.

Thumbs Up for DEVIL.

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