By Jack Rico
Last night I had the chance to see the first screening of ‘Devil,’ written and conceptualized by M. Night Shyamalan, the same guy who everyone seems to be laughing at nowadays. The movie in my mind was entertaining, suspenseful, freaky at times, thrilling and what I think to be, a wonderful and captivating premise.
Five strangers (Logan Marshall-Green, Geoffrey Arend, Bojana Novakovic, Jenny O’Hara, Bokeem Woodbine) in Philadelphia begin their day with the most commonplace of routines. They walk into an office tower and enter an elevator. As they convene into this single place, they are forced to share a confined space with strangers. Nobody acknowl- edges anybody else. They’ll only be together for a few moments. But what appears to be a random occurrence is anything but coincidental when the car becomes stuck. Fate has come calling. Today these strangers will have their secrets revealed, and face a reckoning for their transgressions. Slowly, methodically, their situation turns from one of mere annoyance to sheer helplessness and abject terror. Terrible things begin to happen to each of them, one by one, and suspicion shifts as to who among the five is making it all happen…until they learn the unspeakable truth: one of them is the Devil himself. As those on the outside try in vain to free them, the remaining passengers realize that the only way to survive is to confront the very wickedness that has led them to today.
Devil is the first installment of The Night Chronicles, a series of terrifying stories conceived by Mr. Shyamalan that he now turns into movies with up-and- coming filmmakers. The man chosen for his fist foray into the series is John Erick Dowdle, who displayed a natural sensibility for camera placement and pacing.
Perhaps one of the most delightful experiences of the film was accomplished Spanish composer, Fernando Velázquez’ Hitchcockian score. It was an obvious throwback to the classic Hitchcock scores of Rope, The Man Who Knew Too Much, etc.
The movie is also sprinkled with a plethora of superstitious Latino legends and myths about the devil that I remember hearing ever since I was a kid. Shyamalan did great work in incorporating that Latino theme into the film via Ramirez the security guard (Jacob Vargas), a devout Catholic, recent immigrant who is superstitious and the first to realize the demonic aspects of what is happening in his building. He’s trying to convince the others that the events taking place are supernatural. Vargas played the part innocuously somber, but peppered with a touch of unintentional humor.
The acting by the cast was very solid and not at all deserving of criticism. There was really no blunders to speak of, which is why I can’t review this film as if it were bad. It’s actually good!
I’ve seen all of Shyamalan’s films and I have to say to those who think his films are deplorable, then you haven’t seen Vampires Suck or Miss March. Devil serves its purpose as entertaining escapism and it does it well. It will make you cringe and twinge all while still subtly humoring you. The quality to scare people is a difficult task for any director and Devil manages to do it without misstep. Devil serves up the scares, the screams and the creepiness. Is it the best horror film of the year? No, but you will get your money’s worth.
Rated: PG-13 for violence and disturbing images, thematic material and some language including sexual references.
Release Date: September 17, 2010
Screenplay: M. Night Shyamalan, Brian Nelson
Director(s): John Erick Dowdle
Starring: Chris Messina, Caroline Dhavernas, Bokeem Woodbine
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Film Genre: Horror, Mystery