GENRE: Supernatural thriller
THE PITCH: Five people are trapped between floors in an elevator of a Philadelphia office building. When one of the passengers is attacked after the lights go out, it becomes apparent that one of the five is not who they appear to be.
MONEY SHOT: Building security monitor the escalating tension and subsequent fighting on the elevator when one of the passengers is mysteriously murdered. As they watch review the video footage trying to determine what occurred, a ghostly image appears on screen.
BEST LINE: In an attempt to keep the group calm in the trapped elevator, security officer Lustig (Matt Craven) asks them to "hang tough," to which the passenger Vince (Geoffrey Arend) replies laughing, "Hang tough, when's the last time you heard hang tough?"
KNOW YOUR BIBLE: The film begins with a bible verse which sums up the movie succinctly, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." 1 Peter 5:8.
THE PHYSICS OF EVIL: According to building officer Ramirez (Jacob Vargas) who describes this as the Devil's Feast, things go horribly wrong whenever the dark one is present. To prove his point, he takes a piece of jellied toast, flips it and lets it land on the ground. The fact that it landed jelly-side down is proof Satan is among them.
BAD WRITING OR RACIAL PROFILING: Ben (Bokeem Woodbine), the temporary guard trapped on the elevator has a criminal record that includes several counts of larceny. Believe it or not, his last name is Larson.
BODY COUNT: Throughout the film seven people are murdered in various fashion as the story progresses. Two of the murders are part of a flashback sequence.
BLACKOUTS: The attacks and killings happen whenever the lights go out in the elevator and office building. As the bodies start to stack up, I counted eight different blackouts that lasted no longer than 20 seconds.
BOTTOM LINE: Since I can't reveal much of the story due to spoilers, I'll rant about this. As much as I hate to admit it, M. Night Shyamalan has by far one of the industry's most creative minds. After all who else could sell a story about the devil attacking people in an elevator to Hollywood execs. But creativity aside, his recent string of duds has turned this once lauded genius into the bane of moviegoers. I used to assume the problem stemmed from his control-freak method of writing, directing and producing his films, but now I'm starting to think it stems from something else good stories butchered by bad writing and faulty direction causes the stories to linger about an hour too long.
The premise and meter of Devil feels like the perfect campfire story. I can actually imagine the goosebumps that occur as someone weaves this creepy tales to all who listen maybe even burning a marshmallow or two. Regrettably this same tale, helmed by the writing team of Shyamalan and horror newbie Brian Nelson just doesn't translate well to the screen. The principle character, Detective Bowden (Chris Messina), who seems practically to stumble through the mysterious events, is just a lost soul observing all that transpires while his partner, Detective Markowitz (Joshua Peace) is relegated to scouring paperwork - completely clueless to what's going on around him. Add a guard-turned-religious-zealot and a couple of antsy personalities stuck on an elevator and you get director John Erick Dowdle's disjointed mess that has no choice but take the easy way out focusing primarily on the timely blackouts and gruesome murders which follow in the office building.
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