wogma rating: Watch, but no rush (?)
Devil is one of those horror movies you would love to catch accidently on TV. After watching it, it would be a perfect catalyst for an evening conversation that goes something like, “I watched an interesting movie this afternoon”. Shyamalan had made better movies, but he’s also made worse – while he’s only given the story of Devil, it’s a production of his original series called Night Chronicles. Directed by John Eric Dowdle, Devil is one of those films that is perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon when you just want to be mindlessly spooked.Read more
One distinguishing factor about Shyamalan – the Brand is that his movies can be easily placed into two extreme categories: Stimulating Good and Hair-wrenching bad. If The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs fall into the former category, you know what The Village and Lady In The Water can make you feel. It’s as if he delivers in alternates – and that also holds true about his latest film Devil.
Devil is a story that worked itself out in the inner recesses of Shyamalan’s head and was given form by screenwriter Brian Nelson (of 30 Days of Night fame) and Director John Eric Dowdle (of Quarantine fame). First part of the Shyamalan produced Night Chronicles, Devil is based on a premise called the Devil’s Meeting – where the Devil takes human form, traps the sinned in an unknown location, and kills them only after torturing them.
Devil deals with the same foundation where 5 people are stuck in an elevator and each gets murdered one after another during occasional blackouts. Shyamalan has admitted that the film is loosely based on Agatha Christie’s novel ‘And Then There Were None’, and that his main inspiration behind the film is Hitchcock. With this background – the writer, director, premise and influences – Devil sounded like a chilling, mind-bender.
Allow me to place a two-sided argument of the movie before we can decide which category this movie falls under. You can’t go terribly wrong with a regular whodunit that has Hitchcock and Christie footprints all over it. Devil has a classic eye-popping twist in the end and a couple of bumps throughout the film, which will make the anticipated chill stop midway through your spine - but it’s not something you haven’t experience before.
Fernando Velázquez provides the typical horror movie background music- banging high octave piano keys like someone is taking slow cautionary steps. The cinematography moves between tight shots of the people trapped in the elevator to establish claustrophobia, which is inter-cut with crane shots of the sky-scrapper in which these people are stuck. The symbolism is meaty, and still a bit overdone – it becomes cloudy and grey the minute these people get stuck, bang in the middle of the 40 odd floors of the building in the 6th elevator.
There is definitely a melodramatic, old school charm to Devil; it’s the perfect amalgamation of a Christie novel, a Hitchcock thriller and contemporary horror visuals. The problem with such an arrangement is the lack of originality – there is nothing new that Devil offers as a 2010 film. If you have read and seen enough of the horror/thriller genre you will be able to make correct guesses about the film, but you’ll still want to sit it out, because such formulas never go wrong.
The DVD of Devil has a few extended trailers, deleted scenes that don’t contribute much to the film – if anything the film is crisp because it is only 79 mins long. The DVD also includes a featurette on the making of the film – which is a little arrogant during Shyamalan’s interview but also intriguing when it discusses the myths surrounding the premise of the film.
Devil won’t excite you like a guilty pleasure would, but its 79 minutes decently spent, if you’re in the mood for an average movie with a fine fusion of influences. Watch Devil because you won’t be disappointed with the overall experience of the film. Almost like your indulgence in junk food would be – it’s good in an inviting way but not stimulating.
This review is by guest reviewer Swetha Ramakrishnan. Swetha Ramakrishnan is currently living and working in Mumbai. She's a self-confessed film enthusiast and can most likely be found talking to anyone and everyone about popular cinema and her love for SRK. Swetha Ramakrishnan also blogs at http://swetharamakrishnan.blogspot.com/.
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