Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Devil (2010)

Fear 3/5
Gore 2/5
Entertainment 3/5
Creepiness 3/5

By now, most of us are already familiar with this film's premise: a handful of people are stuck on an elevator and one just so happens to be Satan McFluffypants (I like giving the dark lord cutesy names). It's up to the people on board and the authorities who are monitoring the stopped elevator to figure out who it is before everyone gets waxed. I won't go into the recent history of Shyamalan's work other than to say its been pretty abysmal. But the concept of this story and the fact that he gave up the director chair to John Dowdle (he, the director of the most anticipated film that I have yet to see, The Poughkeepsie Tapes) had me intrigued. With decent reviews from those in the blog-o-sphere, I went from intrigue and 'I'll wait until it hits DVD' to 'I've gotta see this right now.' So does the film deliver? Yes and no.

It doesn't take long for things to get going as we are started off with a voice narration, telling a bible story about how the devil will sometimes appear on earth in human form to take the souls of the damned. The whole process is kicked off when someone commits suicide, the oft most heinous act one can commit upon themselves which, in the good book, is described as a one way ticket to the land down under. Sure enough, someone jumps from a high rise building, crashing a top a delivery van, with rosary clinched in hand.

As a detective begins to investigate the suicide, our potential suspects board an elevator in the same building where the man lept to his death. Our group breaks down as follows: two women, one young and one middle aged and 3 males, a security guard, a skinny, well dressed salesman looking type and the other, also suited but a bit more scruffy in appearance. When the elevator gets stuck and strange happenings take place, the detective gets the call and just so happens to be in the area.

And that's about all I'll say at this point. For to go into anything else, will spoil the treat as the lives and backgrounds of these individuals, detective included, unravel. The way that the film keeps you guessing all the way up until the very end, equally jumping from elevator occupant to occupant, briefly making you think that this person is the devil, is absolutely nerve racking and engrossing.

The main gripe I have with the film, and its a huge one, was the need to explain everything. Like we, as the audience, don't have the intelligence to connect all the dots. On top of the narration which draws a pretty straight line, is an over the top and oftentimes hokey dialogue given by a devotely religious Hispanic guard. He talks to the entrapped elevator occupants, recites bible verses en espanol and gives an overly winded speech about the devil. Which is, of course, first ignored by the detective but deemed more plausible as events unfold. It does enough to detract from the effort and it really left a sour taste in my mouth.

Devil has a fantastically original premise and it's a riveting movie watching experience that will keep you on the edge of your seat. However, the need to have every single detail spelled out so no potential confusion could sit with the reviewer really spoils effort. It my be too harsh and inaccurate to call the overly explanatory narration and characterizations of the film insulting to the audience. But I feel that the film could have best been served with a lot more subtlety, relying on the individual experiences of the reviewer (I mean let's face it, we've all had exposure to religion at some point in our lives and know the basic good vs. evil story) to really drive home the themes of the film.

Cortez the Killer


Strange Kid said...

I had a momentary spike of interest to see this film after watching the preview on TV, but have since been really "disengaged" with it.

Hearing your thoughts makes me think this is definitely rental territory, especially given the "dumbed down" nature of the script, which as a moviegoer I can't stand. Always have enjoyed a good twist, though, so I can't wait to see it on DVD.

Chris Hallock said...

I'd like to give this one a chance. Nice, thoughtful review, CtK. Makes me want to make an effort to see it.

Cortez The Killer said...

@Strange Kid, yeah it's definitely a rental. Certainly not a must see in theaters. It has a lot going for it and some geniune scares and tension. For the life of me, I can't figure out why the filmmakers felt the need to go such great lengths to ensure that every loose end was tied and there was no question in our minds as to what it all meant.

@Chris, thanks buddy. I wouldn't rush out and see it unless you caught it at a matinee or something. As mentioned, it's more rental material.