61 Days of Halloween: Devil
Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.
Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.
Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.
One thing you will not get in this particular review is citations of other reviews and rebuttals in defense of M. Night Shyamalan. While I stand by the opinion ultimately expounded in my review of The Last Airbender, I would’ve altered my approach if I had to do it over again (Thus, it has not been re-posted yet – and may remain so). As for this film, it’s the first of what is being referred to as the Night Chronicles Trilogy. His impact on this film is a story credit alone so mention of him will be minimal, aside from saying that his stamp can definitely be felt on this story regardless of the level of involvement he actually had. This is a thriller which hearkens back to some of his earlier films and oddly one where you’re not necessarily waiting for a twist, but you get it anyway and it does not color the whole film.
The film starts with inverted shots of the Philadelphia skyline. They are shots whose significance is not immediately made known, and not overtly explained. They set the tone for a film where something is slightly amiss throughout. The film does well to keep its tale confined to the elevator as much as it possibly can. Granted to investigate and to try to get to the bottom of the mystery it is necessary to go outside on occasion; the fact that so much of the film is contained to that cramped space definitely is a boon to the narrative and aids its effectiveness.
When dealing with a film that is so confined such that its part-absurdist chamber drama it is crucial that your cast be capable of carrying the film and this cast is definitely capable. The core of the cast being: Logan Marshall-Green, Jenny O’Hara, Bokeem Woodbine, Geoffrey Arend and Bojana Novakovic. What is most compelling about not only the story but also their respective portrayals is that at one moment or another they all lead you to believe that they, in fact, are the devil in the elevator car.
The film also employs a narrator, who acts as storyteller. A technique it seems that is a bit on the rebound in film. However, in this case this narrator does not get into the fray too much but merely fills in a few blanks and acts, essentially as the glue binding this tale together. It is this voice that gives a little reason to the tale. Whereas without this narrator it might just send a chill or two up your spine with the narrator there is a point made and something to reflect upon.
With the combination of the opening montage and the narrator setting the stage the tension level in this film is ratcheted up pretty early and rarely if ever dissipates throughout out. There is a consistent feeling of dread which is pounced upon at opportune times and while there are peaks and valleys the highs are high enough to sustain a significant level of interest.
The only things that can be questioned are very minor points which could’ve been addressed by more judicious editing of the footage and story itself. One concern is that while most believe the elevator is malfunctioning due to possibilities that are terrestrial we follow around a janitor. He vanishes from the story for too long. Pieces of his journey to the roof and basement could’ve been spliced in real quick so he wouldn’t disappear for so long after having been a significant player in the early going. The characters also don’t think to use their cell phones as flashlights during the temporary blackouts for far too long. The introduction of the religious element of the film is a bit clumsy and lastly our protagonist, Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) does a Sherlock Holmes impersonation in deducing the circumstances surrounding a suicide early on that is not only a bit extraneous but also a little hard to swallow.
However, Devil is still a highly effective and well-crafted tale that is an edge-of-your-seat kind of film that is well worth your time.