Minor spoilers are included in this review.
It’s unquestionable that Devil was purposely marketing itself as an M. Night Shyamalan film. And I cannot understand for the life of me why they would do that. Is it an ego thing since the production company is owned by Shyamalan himself? Is the general public dumb enough to be shepherded into a film based on a pretty good film eleven years ago?
Devil wasn’t directed by M. Night. He didn’t even write it (that credit goes to Brian Nelson). But it is the first of a trilogy of films called The Night Chronicles, all based on Shymalan’s ideas. The point of all this is moot. Shyamalan didn’t direct it. He didn’t write it. The movie still sucks.
Five random (or seemingly random) strangers get on an elevator in Philadelphia. The elevator gets stuck. Someone or something is killing the passengers one by one every time the lights in the elevator go out. Oh, there’s an atheist cop played by Chris Messina who’s observing the whole thing through security cameras, and he’s deftly paired with an overly religious Mexican security guard.
As this film is written by the master of attempted twist endings, it should be no surprise to anyone that the ending defies logic. Although like his last few films, it’s all mostly predictable. The characters are shallowly developed.
Director John Erick Dowdle seems to relish the opportunity to feature claustrophobia more prominently than his cast (this is evidence by his previous film Quarantine, the rather bland remake of Spain’s [REC]). But ironically, cinematographer Tak Fujimoto uses his camera angles to make the inside of the elevator seem stifling, but certainly roomy enough for between one and five live passengers for a few hours.
Any tension claustrophobia may have brought to the situation is quickly written off since we know next to nothing about the characters. We don’t care when the racist old woman is hanged, or the cocky mattress salesmen is impaled by a shard of glass mirror.
Devil may not be as hacky as, perhaps, Lady in the Water, but there’s nothing here that is new, exciting, or a suspenseful. The physical limitations of the main characters chould have been a tremendous asset of the script and Nelson has proved he can do much with little like in Hard Candy. But everything falls short and flat. Devil will be a distant, and faded memory by the time you get to your car.
Devil features nothing new, exciting or suspenseful. Instead, it gives us shallowly developed characters and an ultimately forgettable story.