Sunday, September 26, 2010

Scare Tactics

M. Night Shyamalan, I forgive you.

I forgive you for disastrous "The Lady in the Water," boring "The Happening" and this summer's  vomit inducing "The Last Airbender".

You have totally redeemed yourself with "Devil"

The screenplay of “Devil” was penned by Brian Nelson and based on a story by M. Night Shyamalan, a man with a reputation for churning out movies with twist ending after twist ending. But there is enough foreshadowing here (see title) that the resolution isn’t quite the shocker we’ve come to expect.

Pure evil has descended on a high rise in Philadelphia, as five nameless people board an elevator only to find their destination isn’t exactly where they had in mind. This scenario is the plot of “Devil”.

During the film’s upside-down opening, the narrator which we later know as a security officer named Ramirez (Jacob Vargas) who doesn’t appear on screen for almost half an hour, tells of an old story he heard in his childhood. The story repeats itself throughout the ages, always beginning with a suicide, which opens the way for the Devil to appear on Earth and make sure that everything that can go wrong does.

“Devil” begins the same way. Here, the suicide that invites evil in also serves another purpose, bringing Det. Bowden (Chris Messina), a faithless, recovering alcoholic still grieving over the deaths of his wife and young son, to the building where the elevator is stuck.

As chance would have it, the malfunctioning elevator is of the express variety and gets stuck in an area where there is no access. All efforts to get it back online fail. Attempts to open the doors are unsuccessful. All who try to help dies a gruesome death. The passengers — a mechanic, an old woman, a guard, a rich woman and a salesman — are stuck with one another.

As Bowden and Ramirez look on via the elevator’s security camera, things begin to go wrong, pushing the detective to look deeper into the riders’ backgrounds. His investigation reveals that each passenger has his own checkered past, a fact that seems far beyond mere coincidence. Ramirez believes their past deeds and the lies they tell themselves are why they have been brought together. Bad things like this happen for a reason.

The attacks mostly take place when the elevator lights malfunction, so director John Erick Dowdle (“Quarantine”) hides most of the scary action behind a black screen, forcing moviegoers to experience the horror with their ears until the lights come back on. It’s mostly just a bunch of bumping, screaming and grunting, interrupted now and then with an occasional flash of light. Simple, but effective. You will never know who dies until the lights come back and they're dead...

Everyone is a supect in the elevator. You don't really know who is behind the murders, who is the Devil in disguise. This simple fact is good enough to draw you into the story, watching for anything and everything that can give it away. The person you suspect the most might be the next person who dies, making you doubt yourself over and over again. The plot twist in the end was unexpected and spooky...

There really aren’t any egregious acting issues in the movie. Each actor and actress pulls their weight, though no one stands out. But the passable performances mix nicely with an ominous soundtrack of strings and bass instruments and an interesting plot with decent enough execution — a package that delivers an hour and a half of thrills.

This movie is a definite must-watch on anyone's list. Iven and I were hanging on the edge of our seats throughout the entire movie. Our popcorn and waffles just lay there, forgotten. It was just that good!

As of writing it is 52 days,  23 hours, 35 minutes and 20 seconds till Deathly Hollows



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