There are movies. Then there are B-movies. Then there are unsalvageable wastes of film. And then there’s the majority of M. Night Shyamalan’s movies. The sad thing is that while for the film we’ll be talking about today, Shyamalan only wrote the story for it (not even the script, mind you) and produced it, but it reeks of his tropes — the contrived plot, the needless dialogue, the “twist” at the end and even the poorly written characters. But lets be honest, what’s more fun than watching a terrible M. Night movie on the most sacred of horror holidays? Well, a lot of other stuff but this is how I spent mine.
Let’s take a look at Devil.
To give credit where credit is due, it was directed John Erick Dowdle, of Quarantine fame, and written by Brian Nelson, who wrote Hard Candy. How they came together to make this awful a movie I don’t have the foggiest idea. The plot boils down to five strafers getting into an elevator which mysteriously stops working. One by one they are killed off by the devil, whose presence is discovered and announced by the Hispanic security guard watching it unfold.
If that sounds sort of racist to you, then you are able to spot it well. If there is something I will give Shyamalan credit for, it’s for not resorting to racist caricatures for his films. It probably helps that he’s Indian and probably faced some level of discrimination in his life, so when he does write characters, they don’t feel as though their character, or what little they have, is profoundly bad writing, and racist garbage to boot. Not so in this film. Aside from only have two minority actors, one of them is a terrible stereotype and the other, the African-American security cop, is only occasionally a walking stereotype. Yes, I am not a professional screenwriter and likely never will be, but lets be honest here — just because I don’t cook professionally doesn’t mean I can’t tell when my food is badly prepared.
I am not going to place any of the blame on the actors since they actually do a decent job of acting paranoid and scared. In fact, the only time I ever enjoyed the movie was when the characters in the elevator were allowed to interact amongst themselves. The premise itself is not a bad idea but was butchered with a bad ending. The cinematography is also particularly strong, showing off the director’s flare and good eye which makes it all the sadder that this was the film where he got to show it off. This small paragraph is all I can say in good conscience was actually good about the film itself.
The twist, because I’m almost sure Shyamalan doesn’t know how to tell a story without one, is so easy to pick up you’ll guess it even before the get in the elevator. That’s one of the big issues with his works now: twists only work when you don’t know they’re coming. The ending is as disappointing as you’re assuming, or maybe even more so because of its cheap nature. It’s what I like to call the Hollywood ending because everything is okay at the end even though not everyone gets what they deserve, not to mention it has the most unbelievable coincidence in it which makes it entirely too ridiculous to even fathom. This movie was supposed to be part of a trilogy called The Night Chronicles but has been all but dropped by Shyamalan, likely for the better.
In the end Devil is one of the worst horror films ever made though I wouldn’t go so far as to say the worst Shyamalan has ever done. Personally I think this movie had some clear potential that was absolutely squandered. If you want to see a movie for laughs and to point out the ridiculousness of it all, this film makes a fine candidate but otherwise pass it over completely.
– Decent acting.
– Good cinematography.
– Poor twist.
– Bad writing.