Reviewed by Nomad
Directed by The Dowdle Brothers (Drew Dowdle, John Erick Dowdle)
Starring Jacob Vargas, Bokeem Woodbine, Chris Messina, Matt Craven
The world is said to be in the middle of a war zone. The forces of heaven beat back the hordes of hell on a daily basis, and most of these battles are subtle little games of chess. A human being is pushed into a situation. The choices they make to get out deem them worthy of heavenly bliss or the eternal torment of hell. Consider every choice you make as a part of this game. This is … somewhat … the premise posed by the creators of Devil, in which five strangers find themselves trapped in an elevator, twenty floors up, waiting for their demise to come.
Detective Bowden (Messina) is first on the scene when a body pops up on the roof of a delivery van and the point of origin seems a mystery. Our recovering alcoholic hero cop, who is still mourning the loss of his family from a fatal car crash, is lead to the office building where our five potential victims are trapped in an elevator after one of them is wounded during a mysterious attack. As Bowden works to figure out if the passengers are connected to the body in some way, our ultra religious Latino security guard buddy (Vargas) has figured out that the devil himself is involved and shares this information whenever possible, even going so far as to illustrate the demonic influence by spoiling some perfectly good toast with jelly. EVIL!! Get thee out of my PB&J, SATAN!! When the devil is near, everything goes wrong. By this logic, Kanye West is the devil. Think about it.
This movie confuses me immensely. The commercials have made it abundantly clear that the devil is the reason for all the badness coming down in one place at one time. They also establish that the devil is in the elevator with the five or is one of them. I’d buy the mystery being which one is the devil, but the movie spends all of its energy with Detective Bowden trying to unravel a human mystery. When the body count starts to rise, Bowden goes into overdrive, leading us to clues about each of the elevator dwellers with the intent to point the finger at him or her as the killer. A violent past … a connection to a company … implements of sabotage … all are clues revealed.
But WAIT!! IT’S FUCKING SATAN!! Last I heard, the devil doesn’t need a wrench to loosen up a bolt in a harness to send a dangling workman plummeting to his death, ya know?! All the misdirection and artificial mystery seems pointless. What’s worse, the constant running around outside the elevator destroys the potential for a claustrophobic atmosphere within. I may be a jaded horror movie psycho, but I can tell when a movie is absent of tension … and this one has less peril than watching Buzz and Woody escape from a drooling baby’s crib.
Acting performances are sufficient. I say it so flatly because the writing is largely uninspired. Our elevator is filled with unlikable characters, leaving us with no one to root for … or even against for that matter. No witty banter … no snappy insults … no exploration of characters through their shared plight. The actors in the elevator scream and jump and do their best paranoid victim impression as counterpoint to the stern-faced cops who squint in the face of danger.
The most time is spent on Bowden, who actually does make you feel for him. TOO BAD THE MOVIE ISN’T ABOUT HIM, RIGHT? RIGHT? Ahh hell. The movie is about him, isn’t it? One look at the IMDB credits will show that Shyamalan is the creator of this story, and he’s brought all his old favorites with him including “life changing car crash” and “man loses his faith in the face of personal loss.” Sweet … but … yawn. Cinematically, Devil has no particular style other than to tell the story in the most direct way possible. Even the sequences where the lights flicker and evil has its way with the elevator people (as seen in the trailers) are unoriginal, flat in tone and far from shocking. So what does Devil have to offer the horror community at large? Not a whole hell of a lot. The bloodshed is light, the deaths mundane and the supernatural aspects kept to an extreme minimum. Maybe the title Lil’ Devil would have been more accurate since that’s the amount you are going to get.
Devil is JUST OK … and just barely that. An opening sequence shot upside down had me wondering if I has wandered into Inception by accident and convinced me I was about to see a film that would make me want to curse the evil taskmasters of Dread Central who make me sit through such drek. As the story unfolded, I found myself coping. Tolerating. Hell, I was downright indifferent.
Devil is an adequate film that won’t bore you to death and, thankfully, ends in 80 minutes, allowing you to move on with your life in due haste. It’s a tense thriller for people who still love to listen to WHAM! The poster for this film should read DEVIL: “If you have absolutely nothing better to do today”. The quote under that can read “A vast improvement over The Happening!” High praise, indeed.
2 1/2 out of 5
Discuss Devil in the comments section below!
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
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