Monday 13 December 2010

Film Review | Devil

Five people. Stuck in an elevator. One of them's the devil, on walkabout in the world for shits and giggles. The rest? They're either dead, or about to be.

Really, that's all there is to Devil. And you've gotta love the directness of it - if little else...

Actually, you know what? No. It'd be an easy thing to pick this derivative fright night fluff apart, heedless of the fun I had watching it. Yeah, you heard me: fun. Watching an M. Night Shyamalan film. Hard to believe these days, isn't it?

Well, strictly speaking, Devil isn't an M. Night Shyamalan film at all. It's the first of three projected Night Chronicles, which is to say cheapo horror movies "from the mind" of the man who gave us The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs before single-handedly running his burgeoning reputation into the ground with a string of insulting rubbish dressed up as cinema. Thankfully, the totality of Shyamalan's involvement in Devil amounts to a snappy pitch and a producer credit.

With [rec] remake Quarantine director John Erick Dowdle at the helm and 30 Days of Night screenwriter Brian Nelson backing him up, Devil is, objectively speaking, a decidedly so-so horror movie in every sense; par for the course considering the talent involved. A supremely dodgy script, wooden, made-for-TV actors playing transparent, paper-mache characters and an abundance of cheap tricks aren't even the worst offenders, only the first to come to mind. And yet... I enjoyed myself.

It doesn't hurt that Devil's barely an hour long. Treat it like an episode of The Outer Limits, adjust your hopes and dreams accordingly, and it works - if not so much as a movie then as a game. "It just doesn't make any sense," cries one character as the last act kicks off. And no. No, it doesn't. But then, as another opines, "This is what he does. He wants us to doubt everything." Ostensibly, the "he" this God-fearing security guard is referring to is the titular devil, but it makes as much sense to ascribe that modus operandi to Shyamalan and his stand-ins.

A game, then; a guessing game. Which of the five contenders could it be? Is the smarmy smart-ass in the suit Lucifer incarnate, or is it the temp security guard with an arrest record? Could it be the gold-digging vixen, or the innocent old lady, or the Iraqi war vet? If you tend to expect the unexpected, the twist isn't nearly so shocking as I'm sure the filmmakers would like, so it's a silly game, sure.

But it's fun to play.

Like that old video board game, Nightmare - latterly Atmosfear (ugh) - and just as cheesy, Devil is a nonsense, but indulge your childish side and as like as not you'll come away from the first of the Night Chronicles with a guilty grin. And what's so wrong with that?

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