Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review: Devil (2010)

Director: John Eric Dowdle
Starring: Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, Jenny O'Hara

Six people in an elevator, locked in due to technical difficulties. One of them is secretly the devil in disguise. You’ve heard this joke a thousand times, haven’t you? Well, me neither, but they did finally make a movie out of it for you weirdos who wanted such a thing! This is Devil.

Marketing a movie as ‘produced by M. Night Shyamalan’ should very well be a warning sign and will probably be a financial suicide in years to come after the very poorly received Last Airbender movie, but Devil manages to overcome all odds and deliver the goods. And I mean a lot of odds…when was the last time you heard a plot so stupid? The devil in an elevator? Ha! I was all ready to grill this movie a new asshole. But it really is a good flick.

For one, it just looks cool. This movie is sleek and dark as hell, with some of the best lighting I’ve seen in a horror movie in a long time. And the opening shots, turned upside down in an extremely ominous inverted cross-esque shot of the tall building the movie takes place in, are downright awesome as they zoom through the inner workings of the elevator like a slithering serpent. This was a really cool way to start a movie, and any doubts I had were already starting to diminish.

Second, well, it’s a very well written, tense thriller. The characters might not be mind-blowing, nor the acting, but neither are at all bad, and I never had any trouble believing they were who they said they were. The movie unfolds in a very no-nonsense, straightforward way with a lot of really good build up…well, okay, the part where the religious security guard takes the toast falling jelly-side down as a sign of the devil was stupid. But other than that, it’s all pretty damn good. The scenes in the beginning with the detectives looking at the window-suicide were very well done and ominous.

It really wastes no time getting into the elevator, and here’s where it really shines. I know what I was expecting when I walked in: a hokey, jokey thing where the participants in the elevator got wind of the ‘one of them is the devil’ plot and had to play some shitty guessing game to figure out who it was. But the movie surprised me and did exactly the opposite, delivering a subtle and mature set of twists and turns that never did what I thought. There were times when it got a bit weird, like during some of the ‘action’ scenes, but it never really stretched the boundaries so much that I couldn’t believe it. It just kept me hooked every second, wondering what was going to happen next.

Well, okay, the ending is pretty much crap. It’s a silly Christian message that leads to a fairly happy ending and a moral about redemption, and it just kind of sucks. It doesn’t fit the rest of the movie at all, like they just shoehorned it in at the last second because one of the producers didn’t want to scare his grandma. The revelation of who the devil was was pretty damned creepy, but it’s ruined by a lot of really silly parts – this was a horror comedy now? Try to be a little consistent, movie. It’s not a good ending.

But the movie as a whole is still worth it. Devil delivers a terse, solid thriller that kicks enough ass to excuse the rather dumb ending part. It’s a flick that asks us an important social question: what do we do when we’re stuck in an elevator with the devil? Well, just hope you didn’t do anything to fuck up anybody else’s life. That’s about all I can tell you.