Five strangers are trapped in an office lift in Philadelphia: a cocky salesman (Geoffrey Arend), a racist old woman (Jenny O'Hara), a mechanic with a chip on his shoulder (Logan Marshall-Green), a trophy wife (Bojana Novakovic) and a temp security guard (Bokeem Woodbine) with claustrophobia. The alert is raised and homicide Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) is called when one of the strangers becomes covered in blood. Detective Bowden is still recovering from his own personal trauma after his family was killed. As he monitors the situation, strange things start to happen and superstitious security guard (Jacob Vargas) convinces Detective Bowden that it is the devil that is responsible.
Review by Louise Keller:
A few creepy ideas and excellent direction make this short, sharp horror flick reasonable entertainment for lovers of the genre. Chance, fate and the devil get together in a story from M. Night Shyamalan, but thankfully (after his most recent disaster, The Last Airbender), he has neither written nor directed the film. While the storyline bears the strains of an overworked premise, director John Erick Dowdle has formulated a stylish looking thriller that promises a few scares, a few surprises, as well as the heavy handed mandatory Shyamalan twist.
The film begins with a striking upside down shot of Philadelphia harbour. With a pounding music counterpoint of panting strings and booming brass, the none too subtle mood of discomfort is set. The premise is based on a gruesome bedtime story about the devil and death that an unidentified male voice recalls his mother telling him. Why a mother would tell her children such a disturbing story is perhaps the first question?
But structurally, there are flaws in Brian Nelson's screenplay, the most prominent being the decision taken that the main character and the one about whom we care the most is not in the lift when it jams between floors. Chris Messina's Detective Bowden is the most vulnerable character who has faced his own personal tragedy when his wife and child were killed.
The less the plot points are analysed the better. But Dowdle creates continuing tension as the five strangers trapped in the lift find themselves in an escalating situation. Darkness and silence (allowing our imaginations to flex) is used effectively, as lights flicker, blood drips, inane music plays and communication is severed, while rational and irrational fears collide. Outside, the rain pelts down, shards of glass splinter and a slice of toast falls to the ground jelly side down, indicating that the devil must be nearby. The lift lurches and so do our stomachs. We discover secrets about the people in the lift: they are extortionist, thief, liar, thug, con artist. But does one of them have a bigger secret - a secret of evil? Then the body count begins.
Devil is the first of a series of Shyamalan inspired stories, its name of The Night Chronicles arguably being the best thing about it.
Published first in the Sun-Herald
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CAST: Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, Jenny O'Hara, Bojana Novakovic, Bokeem Woodbine, Geoffrey Arend, Jacob Vargas, Matt Craven, Joshua Peace
PRODUCER: Sam Mercer, M. Night Shyamalan
DIRECTOR: John Erick Dowdle
SCRIPT: Brian Nelson (story by M. Night Shyamalan)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tak Fujimoto
EDITOR: Elliot Greenberg
MUSIC: Fernando Velázquez
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Not credited
RUNNING TIME: 81 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 2, 2010