From here on out, Judge Patrick Naugle is taking the stairs.
Our review of Devil, published December 17th, 2010, is also available.
Take the ride of your life…your soul just may depend on it.
During the last half of 2010 viewers had two choices when it came to M. Night Shyamalan films: the vapid children's action adventure The Last Airbender (based on the Nickelodeon cartoon series of the same name) or the M. Night produced adult thriller Devil, which the aforementioned director also snagged a story credit on. Devil is now available on Blu-ray care of Universal Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
So you've just stepped inside of an elevator with four other complete strangers. Suddenly there is technical malfunction. You look around and start to suspect that someone is not who they seem. Could it be the seemingly mild mannered old lady (Jenny O'Hara, Wishmaster)? Maybe the tough security guard (Bookeem Woodbine, Ray)? How about the attractive twenty-something (Bojana Novakovic, Edge of Darkness)? The creepy salesman (Geoffrey Arned, (500) Days of Summer)? Or maybe it's the quiet mechanic (Logan Marshall-Green, Brooklyn's Finest)? Either way, you're about to find out what hell on earth is like in one of earth's most cramped and confined spaces.
Devil is a lot better than you think it's going to be. If you were like me you saw the name "M. Night Shyamalan" in the ads and thought Devil was going to be yet another of Mr. Night's horrible attempts at cinematic greatness (something that slipped through his hands only a few movies out from his debut smash, The Sixth Sense). The promotional material for Devil made it look it would be a terror show of the highest degree—an all out kitchen sink horror-thon filled with grotesque visions to keep you up until the wee hours.
That, of course, is where the marketing people got it wrong. Once again, whoever was in charge of producing a trailer for this movie made it seem as if audiences were getting something very different than what the end product was (and I swear it played before almost every movie I saw this past summer). The fact of the matter is Devil is an intense, intimate thriller that feels a lot more like a made-for-TV movie than a big budget psychological thrill ride. To be clear, this isn't a complaint—the film works well for what it is. Director John Eric Dowdle—who also made the remake Quarantine—keeps things clipping along at a devilish pace (sorry, couldn't resist the pun). There isn't a lot of fat to Devil; the film is under 90 minutes and uses all its running time to wring maximum scares out of minimal space.
To be honest, the less said about the plot the better. Even though I saw the trailer for Devil dozens of times, I didn't really know much about it except that five people are trapped in an elevator and someone may not be who they say they are. The actors all do fine work with their roles—no one is a real stand out here, but what they do is enough to inject the story with credibility and believable characters. I especially liked the underused Matt Craven (a character actor you've seen in everything from Meatballs to A Few Good Men) as a security surveillance operator who is doubtful that Old Scratch may be hanging out in a high rise elevator even after some spooky images blaze across his TV screen.
If the film has a real downfall it's that the ending is far less interesting than the initial build-up. Obviously, I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet, but I wasn't all that shocked by what happens when the final act came to a close. Much like Shyamalan's previous outings (including a twist ending that you may not see coming) there is some heavy handed life lessons here that are about as subtle as the Road Runner dropping a brick on Wyle E. Coyote's head.
I can recommend this movie to those who like to be toyed with during their movie going experience. It's certainly nothing that will break any cinematic boundaries—people trapped in an isolated space with evil is about as old as Moses' beard. Yet I have to admit that I found myself drawn in and interested as to what would happen next. When a movie does that for more than an hour, it gets my stamp of approval.
Devil is presented in 2.40:1 1080p widescreen and this transfer looks great. The colors are all well saturated and the black levels are solid. While this isn't going to pop out and grab you like some other big budget affairs, overall what fans get is a very good looking image. The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and does a very good job of ratcheting up the scares when needed. The surround speakers were often engaged during moments of tension, and the effect is a rollicking good time. Also included on this disc is a DVS Spanish mix in 2.0, a French DTS 5.1 mix, an English 2.0 mix, plus English, Spanish and French subtitles.
The extra features on this Blu-ray disc are about as slim as the Devil's pitchfork. All fans get are about four minutes of deleted scenes, a three minute EPK with some talking head interviews, merely two minutes of UCLA Folklore and Mythology Professor Ysamur Flores talking about Beelzebub, and "The Night Chronicles" where M. Night discusses what he'd like to see happen with his new creation (all of this will run you about 10 minutes of your time). Finally there is also some BD Live content available as well as a digital copy of the film.
Devil is not a perfect movie, but it is fun if you bring your expectations down a few notches. Universal's work on this disc is good, if not above and beyond.
If I found the Devil guilty, I would fear for my soul.
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