Film Review: Devil

27/09/2010

Devil confirms that nothing should be advertised with M. Night Shyamalan’s name attached. No good can come of it; he would be better off working under a pseudonym if he wants people to go and see his films in the future.

Following a mysterious suicide, five strangers get trapped in the lift of a high-rise building. Police and security have a battle against the clock to rescue them after strange things start to occur…

Devil was directed by John Erick Dowdle, based on a story by producer Shyamalan. Both are to blame for the cinematic mess that is this film. Predominantly, however, it is the lack of an interesting narrative that is the major issue. The film begins with a voiceover explaining that the devil sometimes takes human form in order to walk among us and take the souls of the fallen. The intention is to create an exciting premise where the mystery is which character is in actual fact the devil. Nevertheless, it is difficult to care about these characters when there is a serious lack of development. Furthermore, Devil does little to distinguish itself from other films on a similar theme. There is a lack of mythology, which could have given a depth to the narrative. Conversely, Devil lacks the gore and the tension to make it an appealing addition to the horror genre.

The scenes that take place in the elevator should generate apprehension and terror, but the sub-standard direction leaves a lot to be desired. Whilst the quick editing and accompanying sound should produce tension, the frequent plunges into darkness become tiresome when they should have the opposite effect. Thus, by cloaking the violence Devil is not a gore-fest, yet it does not have the gravitas to become a psychological horror either. In fact, there is very little to sustain the interest.

The dialogue is at times terrible, particularly the narration of security guard Ramirez, which is intermittently laughable. Whilst the voiceover in the beginning of the film serves to set the scene, the frequent narration does nothing to progress the narrative or to give insight to the flimsy plot.  

The acting is passable; though it is clear the cast aren’t helped by the awful dialogue. Logan Marshall-Green does well to display a sense of fear and aggression, given the circumstances. Geoffrey Arend brings a few moments of humour in the earlier scenes of the film.

Devil is the type of film you see on the television and feel that you’ve wasted an hour and a half watching it. After seeing it for free, I felt overcharged.

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