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Devil - Review


Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

M NIGHT Shyamalan may have a lot of detractors right now but there’s a growing sense that he’s bringing it upon himself by directing the likes of The Happening and The Last Airbender.

Perhaps it’s a clever move, then, to have allowed new directing talent to take ‘responsibility’ for his new collection of horror stories, The Night Chronicles, which begin with John Eric Dowdle’s take on Devil. The results are pretty enjoyable.

The film follows the fate of five unsuspecting strangers, all seemingly normal but each with a sinister secret to hide, as the unlikely group becomes trapped in a tiny, airless lift several stories up in a huge office tower block, unaware that they have been drawn into the start of a disturbing experience with the Devil.

As one by one the passengers fall victim to an evil presence, Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) must try to solve the mystery and, in doing so, uncover the chilling secret that inextricably links their lives.

Given its claustrophobic setting and supernatural element, Dowdle’s film has to work hard to maintain the tension but does so in generally convincing fashion without overplaying the contrivances too much.

He also benefits from some strong performances, most notably from Messina as the dogged detective and Jacob Vargas, as the overly superstitious security guard who becomes convinced that the Devil is at play.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for most of the lift’s occupants, most of whom look scared and shout at each other loudly without ever really building memorable characters. It’s often difficult to know who to root for.

That said, Dowdle and Shyamalan keep you guessing with the identity of the Devil and even manage a neat twist ending… albeit one that injects a little too much religion and hope into the surprisingly upbeat finale.

But then even in his very best work (such as The Sixth Sense or Signs) Shyamalan has seldom been able to resist the temptation to find hope from the depths of despair, frequently veering towards the sentimental instead of the sucker punch.

But while that has worked in the past, it feels a bit of a cop out here, thereby denying Devil the opportunity to become a lean, mean supernatural thriller that sends you away with a feeling of genuine fear. Instead, and arguably to the film’s detriment, you may well leave feeling oddly reassured.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 80mins
UK Release Date: January 24, 2011