Devil (2010)

(On DVD, January 2011) I missed this film in theatres due to a combination of unfortunate timing and so-so reviews, but the film is significantly better than I expected.  A blend between high-concept thriller and supernatural horror (ie; Five people are trapped in an elevator… but one of them is Satan), Devil is a snappy 81-minutes B-movie that’s effective and up-front about its own intentions.  Devil keeps up its energy by hopping back and forth between the trapped elevator, frantic investigators and a grim catholic legend.  It moves fast enough not to let things go stale, and takes care to establish its supernatural elements early so that we don’t get misled into thinking that this is a pure thriller. While the catholic mythology is significant and at times slightly overbearing, it doesn’t take a theology degree to appreciate the film, especially given how much of the framework is made-up for the film. The ending isn’t as strong as it could be and the moral lesson of the film smacks of other pat M. Night Shyamalan resolutions, but John Erick Dowdle’s efficient direction confirms that his work on Quarantine wasn’t a fluke and the cinematography keeps things interesting even as five characters are stuck in a box.  For a film with a significant body-count and a pick-off-the-characters structure, Devil remains intriguingly restrained in the presentation of its deaths: We will often see the events leading to the death and their aftermath, but not the actual gruesome moment; I wish more horror movies were as coy.  While this may not be anything more than a chills-and-thrills thriller, it’s a well-made, reasonably entertaining low-budget film.  That’s already more than we have been able to say about most Shyamalan projects in a long while.

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