31 in 31: Devil

Story: This is the not-so-true story of five strangers… stuck in an elevator where one of them is the Devil.  Find out what happens when one by one they start dying… and the survivors start getting real.

Scares: Lots of creepy goodness as you try to figure out who’s next on the Devil’s agenda.  Die-hard horror buffs may not be impressed, but casual users can find plenty of nice chills.

Splat factor: As the folks on the elevator die one by one, there’s a lot of blood to be had.  But the killing is all off-screen, or when the lights flicker off

Closing scene “shocker”?: Surprisingly, no.

Remake, Sequel or OG (Original Ghoul)?:  It’s a stand-alone piece, which is surprising in this time of sequel-mania.

Trick or Treat?: A surprising treat, like something you figure you’d hate but end up enjoying.  (Those anchovy Jelly Belly’s come to mind…anyone?  Anyone?)  Devil has a hell of an impact at the get-go, both literally and figuratively.  It’s a modern day morality tale, of the type I thought had died back with the 80s slasher heyday.  There are 5 sorta-stock characters: The Old Bitch, The Hot Chick, The Security Guard, The Loner and The Creepy Cheerful Guy.  Luckily I couldn’t remember how this film ends, which helped me give it a proper eyeballing.

The rules of the story are doled out bit by bit in voice-over as the story progresses, but c’mon.  We all know the elevator doors won’t open ’til the Devil gets his due.  Innocents die trying to help, but who is guilty and who is innocent?  And hey, isn’t grabbing the doomed early a bit of dirty pool?  Oh yeah; we’re dealing with the entity that put dirty pool on the map.  Carry on.

One thing really did tickle the back of my mind; oh M. Night Shyamalan, wherefore art thou?  Or more specifically, what the hell happened to you?  First you wow us with The Sixth Sense and the amazing (and horribly underrated) Unbreakable.  Then…well, I think if you look up “career downward spiral”, your picture is right there.  Sadly, Devil got the worst of the M. Night blowback, and that’s a shame.  It’s also a shame because he’s not the one directing this film (that’d be Quarrantine‘s John Erick Dowdle), and he didn’t even write the screenplay (that’d be Brian Nelson, of the brilliant horror/psychological fuckwittage Hard Candy).  M. Night came up with the story.  It’s a brilliant concept to be sure, but what I’m saying is there’s real, current talent helming this film, and they get the short end because most folks gave up on all things Shyamalan after The Village.  (Truthfully I’m probably the only reviewer that liked The Village, and that “got” The Lady in the Water.  I didn’t like TLITW, I just understood where he was going with it.  Poor sod.)

Devil is a fun creepy way to play “who’s next” with your friends without seeing body parts flying across the screen.  Not that that’s a bad thing, but you’ve gotta have something to watch early on, before the kids go to sleep & the wussies in the group call it a night.  Meanwhile, I’ll be over here, trying to figure out if M. Night has one more winner in him…fingers crossed for After Earth.

Score: out of 5 pumpkins.

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