As far as movies about being trapped in an elevator with Satan go, Devil is pretty good.
When it comes to fear, M. Night Shyamalan – who provided the idea and the funding for the film – has always favored the psychological. Certainly, the anonymity of the actors, the tight camerawork within the elevator, and the plays on expectations create a very human tension. Sartrean influences are evident. (Obvious inspiration and plot cues are taken from No Exit, but if you’re looking for existentialism, Cube probably does it better.) But while the “Hell is other people” theme is played out well, have no doubt: there is a very real supernatural threat here. The balance between the devil within and without gives the scares of this film some serious heft. With each character having his or her own sins, once the lights go out in the elevator it’s anyone’s guess as to who deserves to be left standing.
However, it’s still a horror film, and it has its roots in the cheesy. The goofy writing that so often plagues Shyamalan films peeks out every once in a while here. (Generic cop a telling generic cop b, “You’re gonna love this…,” for example.) Also, I’m not sure why it felt the need to explain the plot to the audience on multiple occasions. And finally, Devil does get pretty preachy, and I feel like this could have become a small classic had it opted for a more subtle third act. Still, I had a fun time, and that’s all one can ask for, right?
[Should there be any horror aficionados among you the readers, please know that I am about as baffled by this genre as I am by those fancy glass doors under Faunce Arch. (Push or pull? I feel like the Far Side kid.) So I may not know much about horror, but I do know that I saw the trailer for Saw 3D before this film, and it was the worst trailer I’ve ever seen. As moviegoers, we should all appreciate when original ideas, NOT remakes or sequels, make their way onto the screen. Devil is a great time at the movies, and we should show our support.]