“From Universal Pictures comes a new nightmare from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan.”
Director: John Erick Dowdlw
Cast: Chris Messina, Caroline Dhavernas, Bokeem Woodbine
Synopsis: A group of people are trapped in an elevator and the Devil is mysteriously amongst them.
‘From the mind of M. Night Shyamalan’ trumpeted the trailers for this sorry horror movie, raising the inevitable question about just how much dust and how many cobwebs are beginning to gather in that mind of his. In fact, you can almost visualise the tumbleweed gently bouncing around in there as a lonely wind whistles in the darkness. He had a half-decent idea back in 1999 but has come up with increasingly poor offerings since then, and Devil, although not written by Shyamalan, provides little evidence that he‘s any closer to turning things around. There‘s certainly nothing original about Devil – it‘s simply Agatha Christie‘s plot for And Then There Were None in a lift instead of an old house.
The story takes place in a high-rise Philadelphia office block. Five strangers enter an elevator (an American lift, don’t you know). They are a mechanic named Tony (Logan Marshall-Green), an irritating salesman (Geoffrey Arend) who appears to have time-travelled from the 1980s, a grumpy old woman with flame-red hair (Jenny O’Hara), an attractive younger woman (Bojana Novakovic), and a security guard (Bokeem Woodbine). After the elevator breaks down midway up the building, the passenger’s initial anxiety turns to outright terror when the lights temporarily black out, and reveal that one of their number has been brutally murdered when they come back on.
On the face of it, there’s plenty of potential in the storyline, but Brian Nelson’s screenplay lacks both the tension necessary to keep an audience interested and the sense of claustrophobia that should be inherent in the storyline. Little information is provided regarding the character’s histories, and what we do learn is mostly revealed via the investigations of a police detective (Chris Messina) who has an unexpected – and frankly ludicrous – link to one of the trapped passengers, so that the revelations about their past don’t play any part in the passenger’s interplay. The story also requires the presence of a character who has an inconceivably in-depth knowledge of the supernatural mumbo-jumbo that is taking place, firstly so the idea that the devil doing his business in an urban elevator doesn’t seem too far-fetched, and secondly so that he can reveal pointers to the detective (and the audience) as to what is going on. That’s what is known as lazy writing, and when used on the sort of scale it is here, is unforgivable.
This being an M. Night Shyamalan story – albeit one borrowed from old Agatha – there is the expected ‘unexpected’ twist in the final reel. It’s not a clever twist, and it’s not original, so there’s really little point for it being there at all. Which could just as easily apply to the entire movie. Really – what was the point?