Friday, April 29, 2011


John Erick Dowdle | 2010 | 80 min | US

There was a time when an M. Night Shyamalan credit on a film was not a liability. No, really. I don't blame you for not remembering. It was quite a while ago. When Shyamalan's name appeared on screen during the trailers for Devil, however, audiences laughed and jeered loudly in theatres everywhere. Ouch.

It's a shame that his name is the reason so many people avoided Devil because this is exactly the kind of fun genre film that made him a golden boy in the first place. And of course, Shyamalan is only credited with the story. Poughkeepsie Tapes director John Erick Dowdle takes the reigns while veteran genre TV writer Brian Nelson handled the screenplay.

Devil is higher than high concept: five people are trapped in an elevator and one of them is the devil. Trouble afoot! Dumb, obviously, but stylish and fun, as well. The performances are solid, if none of them remarkable, and the movie benefits by clocking in at a brisk 80 minutes. Just right for this kind of one act supernatural thriller. Brian Nelson also wrote the screenplay for Hard Candy, so that gives you an idea of his skill in crafting and shifting a story with few characters in a small space and a single-sentence set-up.

It is not the calibre of The Poughkeepsie Tapes and doesn't pack anywhere near the same punch, but it is the kind of drive-in movie I expect Dowdle to keep making from now on to avoid being strung up in public. Devil may have lost some points at it's initial release because it isn't really of the scale or calibre to deserve a theatrical run. It's more like a "very special episode" of the Twilight Zone. Not necessarily what one is looking for when they shell out fifteen dollars for a ticket, though it would be a pleasant surprise to find when you're battling insomnia and watching Showcase at one AM. That sounds like the opposite of a recommendation, but I swear i enjoyed Devil.

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