Hell, not theaters, where ‘Devil’ belongs

Reed Belmonte

M. Night Shyamalan, the hit-or-miss filmmaker we all know from such amazing feats as “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs,” and such embarrassing catastrophes as “Lady in the Water” and “The Happening,” is taking a break from action-fantasy blockbuster failures like “Airbender” and heading back to his thriller roots. This time, he’s taking the wheel as producer in a series of new films coined “The Night Chronicles” where Shyamalan conceives a basic story idea and passes it along to rookie screenwriters and directors while he oversees the operation.

The first installment of the “Chronicles” is “Devil,” a claustrophobic supernatural thriller that tries to keep you guessing but seems pretty spelled out the entire time. The only thing truly shocking about this movie is that it was released in theaters, not as a made-for-TV movie. Being only 80 minutes long, the film seemed rushed and didn’t give you a lot of time to gain any support or pity for the characters.

The story is quite simple. Five people get into an elevator, one of whom is the devil, and mayhem ensues. We have a security guard (Bokeem Woodbine), an old woman (Jenny O’Hara), a random strapping lad (Logan Marshall Green), a random hottie (Novakovic), and the businessman (Arend, who we all remember as the schnozberries stoner kid in “Super Troopers”).  The man trying to control the situation is deadbeat detective Bowden (Messina), the only decent actor, whose back-story seems so extraneous and pointless you know immediately it pertains to the ending.

This is literally the whole story: There’s a malfunction in the elevator. Anyone who tries to fix it dies. The lights flicker in the elevator and then turn off. You stare at a black screen listening to footsteps, pushing, shoving, a few creepy breaths, and when the lights come back on, someone’s dead. No joke, this literally repeats itself for another 75 minutes. And seeing that this is a film devised by Shyamalan, you’re expecting some big climatic twist, which unfortunately falls short of its expectations.  The rest is corny, dramatic dialogue and random pieces of information that seem so irrelevant you can’t even call it foreshadowing. And to top it all off, bits of voice-over narration are thrown in by the religious security guard (Jacob Vargas) about a bedtime story of the devil waking the earth, bringing the cliché temperature to its boiling point.

It’s your classic suspense structure of isolation and characters being killed off one by one which forces the audience to perform detective mathematics and figure out who the obvious villain is. In “Devil,” the new information that continuously pops up making every character a suspect is the same thing we’ve all heard before; everyone in the elevator is a sinner. It lacks originality and drive; I just didn’t seem to care after 40 minutes of watching it.

I can’t even say this would be a great date movie. I’m someone who gets quite rattled during scary movies, and I was waiting –– no, hoping –– for some sort of scare. I was deprived of anything that could raise my heart rate. There are three types of movies in this world: movies you see, movies you skip and movies you rent. For this film, buy it, light it on fire, and toss it down an elevator shaft. “Devil” is complete hell.