Star cast: Chris Messina, Bokeem Woodbine, Geoffrey Arend, Jenny O’Hara, Logan Marshall-Green, Bojana Novarkovic.
Plot: Five strangers get stuck in a lift in a high-rise and are mysteriously and brutally murdered one-by-one, each time the lights in the elevator go off. A police detective tries to save their lives but discovers that there is a supernatural force at work.
What’s Good: The scary premise; the audience is bound to feel the tension when the lift’s occupants are attacked in the dark.
What’s Bad: The sketchy script of convenience, and the average performances by the stars.
Verdict: Devil is a half-baked supernatural thriller. It fails to send a chill down your spine. Thumbs down.
Loo break: Hardly any; the film has a running time of just 80 minutes!
Media Rights Capital and Night Chronicles’ Devil is a supernatural thriller about five people who get stuck in an elevator and are then murdered one by one. The film begins with an unknown person committing suicide by jumping off a high-rise. Detective Bowden (Chris Messina), who is traumatised by the death of his family in a hit-and-run car accident, is called upon to investigate the suicide. In the meantime, five complete strangers step into an elevator located in the same building where the suicide has taken place. The five strangers comprise Ben (Bokeem Woodbine), a temporary security guard with a criminal record; an elderly woman (Jenny O’Hara) who is a compulsive thief; Vince (Geoffrey Arend), a con artist; Tony (Logan Marshall-Green), an Afghan war veteran; and Sarah (Bojana Novakovic), a greedy heiress.
Within minutes, the lift gets stuck between two floors and the lights start flickering. As the building maintenance and security teams get to work on figuring out why the lift stopped working, weird things start happening inside the lift. Sarah is inexplicably wounded on her back and the lift’s occupants start suspecting Vince as he has blood on his hands and jacket. Vince claims that he is innocent and tries to push the blame on the other two guys. Soon, the lights go off yet again and Vince is killed by a shard of glass from a mirror which goes through his jugular vein. Meanwhile, unable to get the lift working, two of the security personnel, who have been watching everything on CCTV cameras fitted inside the lift, call Detective Bowden to investigate. Bowden checks the building logs in an attempt to find out the identities of the lift’s occupants. He discovers, as mentioned before, that they are all crooks. Incidentally, there is a one-way communication system in the lift, through which the security can talk to the lift’s occupants. In spite of their best efforts to get the lift working or breaking through the walls to get the scared occupants out, the police and the fire brigade can do little. The lift’s occupants are killed gruesomely, one after the other, even as they suspect each other of being the murderer. The climax reveals the real cause of their deaths, which, as detective Bowden discovers, is supernatural.
Story writer M. Night Shyamalan’s premise is interesting but he fails to capitalise on it, instead making a hackneyed attempt of the supernatural-thriller genre. You expect better from him. If, as is believed, Devil is the first in a trilogy by Shyamalan, he better take care because this one really disappoints. Brian Nelson’s screenplay does not do any wonders either. He just jumps into the thick of things, and there is hardly any time to establish the characters. Even though the audience is perturbed by the near-death situation in which the characters find themselves, they will find the repetitiveness of the same dark sequences boring after the first couple of times. Moreover, the back story of the apparent link between Tony and detective Bowden is too contrived and convenient to be believed. The audience is told that the killings take place due to the ‘Devil’. This again comes across as an imposed fact because the film starts with a lengthy narration about how, sometimes, the ‘Devil’ visits the earth to kill sinners. And this is what very conveniently happens in the whole film. It is surprising that the writers have given away the plot of their film in the first 2 minutes itself!
None of the performances are worth talking about, apart from those of Jacob Vargas who plays the superstitious guard and of Jenny O’Hara (the old woman).
Direction (John Erick Dowdle) is commonplace. Music by Fernando Velázquez, cinematography by Tak Fujimoto, and editing by Elliot Greenberg are all passable. It goes without saying that the casting (Debra Zane) is pathetic.
On the whole, Devil is a frighteningly boring attempt. If anything had worked in the film, it just might have been watchable. But as it is, it is a poor show. The last dialogue in the film says, “If the Devil is real, God must also be real.” In that case, God save the audience!