Review: “Devil” (2010)

devil-movieBojana Novakovic in Devil

Before you read this review, please note that M. Night Shyamalan only provides the story as well as production support for this film. It is the first entry of The Night Chronicles, a production house ran by Shyamalan to get more of his ideas out into the world – but, thankfully, not through his lens or pen. Please check all M. Night biases here, except for the fact that he made this production company to honor his brilliant mind.

Hey, guys! Remember a few weeks ago when people were laughing at the trailer for Devil?

Turns out, they must hate good horror thrillers!

Every time I ride an elevator, I always get a little scared that something is going to happen. What if I’m stuck in here for hours? What if it free falls? What if I loudly fart, while standing next to some hot dude? All of these are elevator nightmares and reasons why I just suck it up and take the stairs.

Case in point: what if you were stuck in an elevator and people are dying around you and the lights are flickering on and off and you only have – maybe – six feet by six feet to move around in and, oh, also THE DEVIL IS IN THERE???

I’d shit my pants.

Enter Devil, a fantastic exercise in modern scare. Directly cashing in on the current, “cool kid” trend of demonology and the idea of being trapped in a faulty elevator, I don’t think it’s at all possible to create a more frightening scenario.

Devil is exactly that: five people, by chance, end up taking the same doomed elevator. One of them is the devil, none of them are aware of it, and as shit starts to go down, the security and the police watch every minute of it, trying to figure things out. The plot throws a lot of curve balls into the air and, for the most part, catches them all with unexpected ease. The movie is quick, the movie is patient, and the movie doesn’t spare any detail (or anyone, for that matter).

A PG-13 film, it isn’t interested in slicing people up or getting you to have nightmares: it’s giving you an experience. This film is about tone and, similar to The Descent, does an excellent job at sustaining it. Shit, it may even do a better job. With what happens, you are dealing with time, a countdown of sorts, as you see the five people – one by one – drop dead. You’re dealing with claustrophobia, as an elevator is only so big. You’re dealing with an expanding doom that spreads like a fire with no way to stop it. And, most importantly, you are dealing with the twisted “Who done it?” concept, framed in an old wives’ tale.

Unlike what the trailers have pushed, most of the action actually takes place outside of the elevator. However, most of the horror does occur in the elevator, in the dark, leaving sounds and spookiness to enter your mind and run amok. The film plays in “real time,” unraveling like a yarn ball of related events and details, a very strong theme in the film. Things evolve very fast and do not stop at all for you to question and, although some people will call a few things, I would say it’s impossible to guess all of the events that transpire. The film keeps you constantly questioning: Who is good and who is bad? Is this really the work of the “devil”? Is that REALLY going to happen? A lot of the promises follow through, but some – thank GOD – don’t.

Besides fantastic acting, direction, and writing, the film’s biggest hero is the cinematography and photography. From the top, we’re given a brilliant, patient look at Philadelphia … but upside down. Seemingly a gimmick, this effect sets the aforementioned tone: technically, things look “normal”; but, clearly, they aren’t. Since the film deals with elevation, rising and falling, skyscrapers, and hell, the brilliant Tak Fujimoto and his Philadelphia aerial crew do an excellent job of giving us the right way to see the film. Without them, the movie probably would not work.

(Also, their camera work and manipulation without CGI would make those Inception folks blush.) (Speaking of, there was no CGI in this film.)

Now, even though this movie is damned good, it isn’t without its imperfections. The biggest note is that, if you really think about what is going on, the film is really a moralist fairy tale likely to be misconstrued as a video supplement for a TEChis words, not mine retreat. There is no fire and brimstone, but the mythology of this M. Night “adult fairy tale” () is entrenched in what could be considered theological. The film doesn’t do what The Exorcist famously did: namely, make the devil a menace and God and religion his warring knights. Instead, the concept of “everything happening for a reason” becomes a little weighted.

Devil is a well made, stellar, supernatural horror thriller that is one of the best genre films of the year. It will make you very, very tense, won’t flush your brains out, and will show you just what can be accomplished with a tiny budget. This film is a very positive vote of confidence for The Night Chronicles and definitely has me excited for the second film in the series, Reincarnate. I don’t know about ya’ll, but I think I’m going to call myself and M. Night fan again.


Devil is rated PG-13 for a lot of language, mild gore, some nail biting instances of murder, and, you know, THE FUCKING DEVIL IN HUMAN FORM.

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A gay military kid who lived up and down the east coast finally decided to venture out West--and hasn't returned. With a love for horror films, champagne, short shorts, and CAPS LOCK, he spends his time writing, doing comedy, and being an assistant (oy). He has a dog and collects magazines with Lady Gaga on the cover, too.