Finally got around to watching a movie that’s been on my “to watch” list for sometime last night – the 2010 supernatural horror thriller from director John Erick Dowdle (“As Above, So Low”, “Quarantine”) written and produced by M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”, “Lady In The Water”) titled “Devil”.
The film begins with quote from the Bible “…be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” and a voice-over describing stories told to the narrator by his mother about the devil sometimes taking human form and finding those who have sinned are killing them all. Such events were said to start with a suicide as the devil makes his presence known.
During this we are gradually closing in on a shot of a cleaner wearing ear defenders busily polishing an office building floor whilst in the background a truck roof seems to suddenly explode as the falling body of a suicide hits it at high velocity. The truck then rolls away out of sight.
Police detective Bowden (Chris Messina – “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”, “Argo”), a recovering alcoholic still trying to come to terms with the death of his wife and son in a hit and run incident five years previously, is sent to investigate when the body – clutching rosary beads – is discovered down the street from the office building.
Meanwhile in the office building temporary security guard Ben Larson (Bokeem Woodbine – “Total Recall”, “Riddick”) is signing visitors into the building when he needs to take something up to one of the top floors. His colleague tells him to take the lift, where he joins four other people.
The four are mattress salesman Vince (Geoffrey Arend – “Body Of Proof”, “500 Days Of Summer”, a young woman Sarah (Bojana Novakovic – “Edge Of Darkness”,”Drag Me To Hell”), an older woman Jane (Jenny O’Hara – “Mystic River”, “Wishmaster”), and Tony (Logan Marshall-Green – “Prometheus”, “Across The Universe”).
The lift suddenly becomes trapped between floors, to the bemusement of the building security and maintenance staff who can find nothing obviously wrong with the lift. Staff are able to speak to the occupants of the lift but are unable to hear what is going on in the lift, having to rely on the solitary CCTV camera in the corner of the lift. Bowden is outside the building where he hears about the trapped lift, having traced the truck’s path back there, so heads into the building to assist.
The lights in the lift begin to flicker off and on and one of the security staff watching, Ramirez (Jacob Vargas – “The Hills Have Eyes II”, “Bobby”), thinks he sees a ghostly image of a face close up to the camera. Ramirez is deeply religious and provides the aforementioned voice-overs during the film. When the lights go back on again the mirror inside the lift has been smashed and Vince’s throat cut.
Bowden’s job has suddenly got much harder, and the need to free the lift more urgent – and things have only just begun…
This film was tagged as the first film in “The Night Chronicles”, set to be a series of supernatural thrillers, with the second film “Reincarnate” due to have begin shooting in 2011. This, however, has yet to happen so maybe “Devil” will end up being the one and only entry in said series?
Whatever the result of that, what I can say is that “Devil” is a pretty good movie in its own right. As the story unfolds there are numerous rational and logical reasons why the events in the lift could be happening, and those trapped within the lift switch their suspicions from one person to another as things escalate. Equally there is the sense that supernatural forces could be at work – despite the understandably cynical misgivings of Bowden and the others outside of the lift.
All of those trapped have unsavoury secrets. They’ve all done wrong in some way and these secrets are revealed one by one as the film unfolds until the climax. There was the opportunity for a final twist at the end but, as I remarked to my wife when the credits were rolling, I’m glad the filmmakers avoided taking that opportunity because I think it would have been a little corny and obvious, so the film worked better without it.
The acting was pretty good throughout, the special effects were effective and he whole thing was put together just about right to keep you entertained, maintain suspense and keep you guessing. Although Shyamalan’s reputation has taken a but of a battering in recent years I thought this film, regardless of the fact that he didn’t actually direct it, was spot on.
In summary, then, this is a good old good-versus-evil kind of movie, looking at themes of repentance, redemption and forgiveness. Irrespective of your religious leanings I would certainly recommend it…