Time: 80 Minutes
Chris Messina as Detective Bowden
Logan Marshall-Green as Mechanic (Anthony “Tony” Janekowski)
Jenny O’Hara as Old Woman
Bojana Novakovic as Young Woman (Sarah Caraway)
Bokeem Woodbine as Guard (Ben Larson)
Geoffrey Arend as Salesman (Vince McCormick)
Jacob Vargas as Ramirez
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Five strangers’ day begins with an elevator ride in a Philadelphia office tower. But, what happens next is anything but ordinary. The elevator gets stuck, and the trapped passengers, who expected to be together just a few minutes, now face the revelation of their secrets and transgressions. Frightening events turn annoyance into terror, as they begin to realize that one of their number is Lucifer himself.
Devil actually has a pretty decent concept: a bunch of people stuck in the elevator and they are being killed off one by one by a mysterious killer. One thing however that might’ve turned off people from this movie is the fact that M. Night Shyamalan wrote it. Shyamalan might’ve made a comeback recently but in 2010 he was rather hit or miss, especially The Last Airbender. Although he didn’t direct this movie, he still wrote it, and having seeing it, I have to say that he might as well have directed it. I wasn’t expecting much out of it as I heard it wasn’t that good but it was actually okay. It’s not really that good but it does have some bright spots amongst all the wasted potential and absolutely ridiculousness.
The script by M. Night Shyamalan is a mixed bag. I’ll hold off on talking about the main problem with this movie for a bit and except talk about all the other problems first. There’s only really a couple of characters you really learn about, so you’re not particularly invested in them aside from these particular characters. This means that you don’t really care about what’s going on with them and so the tension doesn’t work that well. We are stuck with mostly 5 characters stuck with each other and most of them we don’t get to know that much about. The dialogue at times can be absolutely terrible, most of the dialogue is things that no normal human being would say. Any of the awkward dialogue that some Shyamalan movies can have is here, and that also goes for some of the weird ideas. The moment when a security guy puts jam on a toast, flips it, and says that when a toast lands jelly side down it means that the devil is near is when you begin to notice that something is really wrong. This movie is really short at an hour and 20 minutes long. It doesn’t overstay its welcome but nonetheless feels very short and unsatisfying. The film tries to build a mystery about what the killer is but it doesn’t help that the film is literally called devil. In fact, this whole supernatural aspect really brings down this movie and was the biggest problem of the movie. When you really think about the plausibility of the devil doing this, it just reveals more holes in the movie. The devil takes so long to get rid of these people, and all in an elevator with only 5 people, if the devil wanted to kill some people, surely it could’ve found a much more efficient way that wouldn’t require him killing them all over 1 hour in a room that has cameras. By the way, the twist of the identity of the devil ultimately doesn’t pay off in the end, you probably won’t be able to predict who it is but there’s nothing to indicate that this person is the devil. Just because you can’t predict a twist doesn’t make it good. Honestly don’t even bother predicting who it is because you won’t guess it, even if you do it’s not very satisfying. Had this been a thriller about a killer in an elevator without them being the devil, it might’ve actually worked. If you add a supernatural element into an otherwise plausible human story, you’ll have to account for all the plot holes that comes with it. Maybe if they at least established the devil as not being particularly good at his job, maybe Shyamalan could’ve gotten away with it. Otherwise, imagining the devil himself doing this is actually kinda hilarious and is quite possible the least effective devil on screen to date.
I don’t know most of the actors involved but from watching Devil, I get the impression that most of then are good and but are ultimately held back from giving much better performances because of the script and characters. The highlights included Logan Marshall-Green and Chris Messina, those two get the most characterisation and depth to them compared to the other characters. There are a couple of actors which really don’t work at all, one of them is Geoffrey Arend as a salesman, who was one of the people stuck in the elevator, he just comes across as being really awkward and annoying. The second is Jacob Vargas as a security guard who is superstitious and was also the guy who said that toasts landing jelly side down means that the devil is nearby. Not that their performances are necessarily their fault, very few actors could deliver a somewhat okay performance with their characters and dialogue.
The direction by John Erik Dowdle is fine enough, nothing special but nothing that bad either. The movie never really delivers on any of the horror aspects well, it’s predictable. For a movie about the devil killing people, its very tame, with the PG-13/M rating. When the scares are there, they’re just typical jumpscares and aren’t effective in the slightest. It doesn’t even deliver on particularly good tension, though as I mentioned previously, that’s mostly due to the underdeveloped characters and story not being particularly interesting.
Devil isn’t really that bad of a movie and was better than I thought it would be. However it really is wasted potential and the end result really isn’t anything. Even without the underdeveloped characters, awkward dialogue and crazy ideas, the inherent devil/supernatural element is the main thing holding this movie back from being somewhat good. It’s not a complete waste of time if you choose to watch it, it’s only an hour and 20 minutes after all. However I would like to see this movie without the supernatural/devil aspect, as I can see some potential with that.