Todd reviews the latest horror film brought to you by M. Night Shyamalan.
Poor M. Night Shyamalan is a victim of his own success. Ever since the Lady In The Water fiasco (I guess I’m one of the few who actually enjoyed that movie) and The Last Airbender, his once-shining star dulled considerably in the eyes of the critics and the public.
That’s a shame, because he’s a pretty good writer when he restrains from self-indulgence. Of course the world fell in love with The Sixth Sense. Signs is tense and enjoyable, if you can forgive the laughable leap of logic at the end.
I might be the only guy who felt completely let down by the ending to Unbreakable, but once you keep in mind that it was meant to be the first of a trilogy, I’m willing to forgive that too. The rest of the film is excellent.
Even The Village would have been better received had he not felt compelled to throw one of his trademark twists at the end. But who can blame him for that? The Happening finally tempered my enthusiasm. But at least the guy takes risks, which is better than a lot of stuff pouring out of Hollywood today.
Okay, lesson learned: It’s nearly impossible to build a one-man brand and expect to meet everyone’s increasingly higher expectations. Who besides Spielberg, right?
So you can understand Shyamalan taking a backseat as the story credit and producer only of Devil. We have here an entertaining yarn in the Twilight Zone vein - safe waters, with nary a risk in sight.
Detective Bowden is investigating a suicide at a high rise in Philadelphia when five people become trapped in one of the elevators - a young man, a young woman, a creepy salesman, a middle-aged woman and a security guard. Two of the other guards on duty communicate with them via the camera and mic in the elevator, but events soon force them to call in the big guns.
After a series of happenings, one of the more religious security guards offers this conclusion: “You must consider that one of these people might be the devil.”
Regardless, Bowden realizes he needs to get them out of there, fast.
What follows is practically a retelling of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, with Shyamalan’s fingerprints all over it - which may be good or bad, depending on your perspective.
Thankfully, the performances, visual style and realistic dialogue elevate an otherwise straight-to-video, B-movie-style thriller to something you would expect to see in a proper cineplex. The camera sweeps through confined spaces as effortlessly as it sweeps through the city in the opening credits, lending the film a nice visual style.
Did this one frighten me? Maybe slightly, a couple times. It's tough for these puzzle-and-a-twist movies to scare because you spend too much brain capital trying to piece together what’s happening.
But for the Halloween season or a dark night alone, Devil is a solid choice. Clocking in at 80 minutes, it’s just as long as it needs to be. Don’t expect heavy emotional involvement or breakthrough storytelling: Settle for an entertaining yarn instead. Sometimes, that’s all you’re looking for.Now that you’ve seen the film…
*** SPOILERS ***
Shyamalan loves to sneak Christian themes into his films, but I’m pretty sure he’s constructed this particular conceit out of thin air. Here it is, as best as I can understand it:
Suicide attracts the Devil. When he comes for the unfortunate person’ soul, he takes the opportunity to stick around to torment and kill a few other sinners - all with a sense of irony. The only way to wrestle yourself free is to acknowledge your gravest sin and repent. If you do that, you’re saved and the dude can’t touch you.
How did I do?