September 23, 2010

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Devil (PG-13)
The prince of darkness is made flesh and walks the earth in order to mess with some people stuck in an elevator in Devil, a horror movie that ó isnít it implied? ó comes from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan.

If Wikipedia can be believed, this is but the first of at least three movies to be released as part of The Night Chronicles, movies with a Shyamalan connection but the man himself is neither the screenwriter or the director (see thenightchronicles.com and decide for yourself how much of a cop-out this is from the maker of The Happening and the even more ridiculous Lady in the Water). What makes this a Shyamalan movie for me is a particular scene when we are informed that the Devil himself is among us. How do we know? Look, says the religious man trying to convince some skeptics. He flips a piece of toast up in the air and it lands jelly side down. When the Devil is around, everything goes wrong, the man says. Damn you, Satan, and your staining-the-carpet-with-jelly ways.

A man jumps out of a skyscraper window and Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) is there to investigate. Lucky timing because, as heís trying to figure out the situation with the dead person, five people walk into an elevator: an older woman (Jenny OíHara), a younger woman (Bojana Novakovic), a shifty-looking young dude (Logan Marshall-Green), a creepy mattress salesman (Geoffrey Arend) and a security guard (Bokeem Woodbine). The elevator jerks to a stop and the people are stuck. In the buildingís security office, guards Lustig (Matt Craven) and Ramirez (Jacob Vargas) are watching on the security cameras. They can talk to the elevator but they canít hear them. They can see them, but when the lights start to flicker and the younger woman is bloodied (animal attack? knife poke? bite of a camouflaged green wolf?), they canít help. Detective Bowden is called in to help figure out whatís going on in the elevator and help the people get out. But Ramirez, who isnít just a hysterical, superstitious Latin stereotype but also the movieís narrator, doesnít think this is just a case of people freaking out in a malfunctioning elevator. He sees the hand of the Dark One in this.

Afterall, thereís the irrefutable proof of that jellied toast. And a flash of a demonic face on the security camera. Because the Devil, evil through he is, likes to have his picture taken.

To be honest, my biggest problem with Devil isnít the flat-out ridiculousness of the jelly-on-floor-proves-existence-of-Devil scene, itís that more scenes werenít this absurd. Most of the movie is dull ó watching a guy try to fix an elevator is boring, watching a guy try to fix an elevator that we know canít be fixed is even more boring. And no, his potential death doesnít make it more interesting. The trailer has already informed us of the movieís basic premise and the title tells us who is behind it all. The movie takes forever to catch the characters up on what we go in knowing and then doesnít do anything interesting with it. Who is the devil? Read over the character description and Iíll bet you can guess. Whatís the big twist? To even hint at it will give it away but letís just say that when the credits started to roll I thought ďNo, really, whatís the twist?Ē and didnít want to give up hope that there might be something more.

Devil had two basic options ó be creepy (confined space, how well can you really trust anyone, is something supernatural happening or not) or be campy (more jelly-related experiments). The movie picks neither and is ho-hum as a result. Banality of evil? How about the evil of charging $8 and up for banality. D+

Rated PG-13 for violence and disturbing images, thematic material and some language including sexual references. Directed by John Erick Dowdle and written by Brian Nelson from a story by M. Night Shyamalan, Devil is an hour and 20 minutes long and distributed in wide release by Universal Pictures.