( Max score: 100 )
Trapped in an elevator high above Philadelphia, five people discover that the Devil is among them – and no one can escape their fate. This chilling, supernatural thriller from M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs) will keep you on the edge of your seat all the way to a heart-stopping ending with a truly wicked twist.
Devil is the first of The Night Chronicles trilogy, which involves the supernatural within modern urban society, by M. Night Shyamalan. In the story five strangers enter an elevator in a busy office building and become trapped when it inexplicably stops between floors. The building’s security guards are able to monitor the elevator via a security camera mounted within however the interior sound has stopped working. Initially the atmosphere among the seemingly ordinary group of people is normal as they await a service technician. Shortly afterward things begin to shift toward the macabre as the lighting in the elevator begins to malfunction and turn off for brief periods. It is during the periods in the dark that they come to realize that there is an evil presence among them. When one of them is attacked in the dark the tension turns to fear and suspicion as it isn’t clear exactly who is doing it. The security staff can only watch in helpless disbelief as the attacks escalate to something that is far beyond their worst nightmares.
When Devil was being released in theaters I recall seeing the trailer on TV and not feeling compelled to see it. I assumed it was the teaser trailer due to its brevity and cryptic glimpses at the plot. All I could make out was that a group of people are in an elevator and that they are being terrorized by some unimaginable evil. Well as it turns out that is pretty much the extent of the film. This is a low budget affair that is paced quickly (82 minutes) and only uses a few sets. There is a brief setup that lightly touches upon each character as they appear in the building’s lobby as well as the police investigation of a jumper/suicide nearby that may somehow be tied in but that’s essentially it before it gets rolling. Once all the principles are in place it isn’t long before it becomes obvious that this is going to be a sort of whodunit. It reminded me very much a Twilight Zone episode (the one where the bus pulls into the diner and one of the passengers is an alien) as the level of fear and paranoia rise to a level that results in people turning on one another rather than focusing on who the real threat might be. The characters are purposefully drawn in a vague manner which works well within the context of the storyline. As things unfold it becomes evident that perhaps their ending up in the elevator together isn’t merely by happenstance.
I really didn’t expect much but found that I enjoyed this film much like you would a sort of extended episode of a show like the Twilight Zone. There really isn’t much depth to it but the focus remains consistent and fairly engaging. There are a few B horror movie type jump scares and a little twist/reveal in the end that quite honestly didn’t surprise me or add much. What I found the most interesting was the interaction among the people in the elevator and I liked how what was happening to them was hidden by the dark and revealed when the lights came on. There is a little religious melodrama but I didn’t find it to be deleterious. This is probably more of a thriller than a horror film but it is eerie enough for it to qualify I suppose. I watched it with my wife and we both felt that while Devil may not be an especially fulfilling film it turned out to be better than expected.
The rating is for violence and disturbing images, thematic material and some language including sexual references.
Devil comes to Blu-ray Disc from Univeral HE featuring 1080p VC-1 encoded video that has an average bitrate of 29 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.8 Mbps.
This video presentation has a filmic quality that doesn’t always lend itself to razor sharp images however resolution is excellent as both people and objects are rendered with clear definition that at times is meticulously resolved. The color palette isn’t a diverse one and sticks mainly to primary and de-saturated neutral tones that render a cooler appearance. Flesh tones are slightly deemphasized but fit right in with the visual style of the video. Contrast is bold which adds dynamic essence to sequences containing bright elements. Blacks are rich, inky and slightly crushed. Scenes containing uneven and/or dim lighting reveal discernible detail in shadowy backgrounds and darkened areas. Images have a pristine quality that when coupled with the video’s high resolution makes for terrific looking presentation.
The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio surround mix does an excellent job rendering the film’s soundtrack. Dialogue has excellent intonation and clarity which allows even subtle changes in vocal pitch to be appreciable. This is a well balanced audio presentation that quite often engages the entire system. Dynamic range is excellent and the soundstage has an open expression that allows its elements to extend well into the room. Discrete rear channel activity isn’t extensive however the elements of fright provide an enriching level of immersion generated by a seamless sound field. The LFE channel is frequently active and reproduces the film’s music and extended lower bass frequencies with room filling extension that strikes with palpable impact.
Devil is the first of The Night Chronicles trilogy, which involves the supernatural within modern urban society, by M. Night Shyamalan. It’s a quaint horror/thriller that reminded me very much of an extended (PG-13 rated) Twilight Zone Episode. I wasn’t expecting much but came away from it feeling that while it may not be a wholly satisfying film it had its moments and held my interest for its 82 minute runtime. It comes to Blu-ray Disc from Universal Home Entertainment in a technically strong offering that looks and sounds great in high definition. The bonus supplements consist of several bland features and a few deleted scenes that provide minimal background on the production. Devil probably doesn’t warrant a purchase, especially in light of the whodunit nature of the story, but its worth a rent when you’re up for a chiller/thriller on a stormy night.
Just watched this last night. It was much better than I thought it would be. Creepy with a few nice twists and turns.
BTW, Ralph, I really enjoy reading your reviews. You are fair, and never stoop to negative hyperbole, or insults to the filmmakers, like many of your peers.