Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Jacob Vargas, Bokeem Woodbine, Chris Messina, Matt Craven
Directed by The Dowdle Brothers (Drew Dowdle, John Erick Dowdle)
Distributed by Universal Home Entertainment
Man, how much did it suck to be the Dowdle brothers when this flick hit theatres? Not because they made a bad movie. In fact, they made a competent little thriller. But because just about everyone had pre-judged the movie because it had M. Night Shyamalan’s name on it as producer. Night’s name has been akin to the kiss of death lately, but we still have hope that one day he’ll once again deliver the goods. Maybe go back to ghosts and aliens instead of films about killer wind or hippies who didn’t have the foresight to pack antibiotics when they exiled themselves in the woods. In any event, don’t let the Shyamalan moniker keep you away from Devil because it is a bit of spooky fun.
The story is simple. Five strangers end up stuck in an elevator of a high-rise office building in Philadelphia. Being trapped in such a cramped confined area over a long period of time can easily make said victims claustrophobic, and of course paranoid, but in this case it leads to murder. There’s just one catch … no one ever sees it happening. People literally just end up dying in pretty horrible ways. Not even the superstitious security guard (Jacob Vargas) who was watching the in-elevator camera the entire time could pinpoint who the murderer was. But he did see something … something evil. The face of what he believes to be the Devil. Of course, since the body count begins rising, the police and detectives start swarming the scene and together with the building’s own security force attempt to sort out the mystery, get whatever survivors that there are out of said elevator, and put the psycho killer behind bars.
Devil plays out like the longest episode of “The Twilight Zone” that you’ll ever see. This works both for and against the movie. On the positive side even though you know that there’s a supernatural entity at work from the jump, the movie still plays the whoddunit card quite effectively. On the bad side? The material is thin. Really thin. There’s more than enough plot here for a short film but barely enough for a feature length movie. As a result, instead of a lean and mean scarefest, our moments of tension are broken up by needlessly preachy and at times absurd observations about heaven, hell, god, religion, and so on and so forth. As someone who detests being preached to (believe whatever you want that gets you through the day; just please don’t force you beliefs on me), these moments slowed the pacing down big time and definitely played on the silly side of the fence.
Shockingly enough, the video presentation of the film on the Blu-ray doesn’t look much better than it does on the DVD. The textures look decent enough, but the black levels are pretty much unsightly. In fact there are moments in which things look pretty blurry and totally blown out in terms of contrast. Even in 1080p the flick looks horribly average and gets my vote for worst transfer of the year. The only shining spot here in this package is the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. The flick is sporting some really rich sound design, and this track will give your surround system quite the workout.
In terms of supplemental material we get what amounts to six minutes of featurettes exploring the film’s storyline (this particular one ends up playing more like a long trailer; weird), a look at the devil in modern folklore, and an explanation of just how and why M. Night’s Night Chronicles came to be. Tack on three deleted scenes that add up to four minutes, and we’re done. Seriously, that’s it. Mindblowing!
How much you dig Devil is going to depend on your expectations. If they’re low, it’ll easily succeed them and you’ll have a pretty good time with the movie. If you’re expecting something headsy and thought-provoking, look elsewhere. No matter what your religious beliefs, Devil has a little something for everybody. The operative word being little.
3 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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