Summary: Five strangers in elevator number 6 find themselves trapped near the 31st floor for an extended period of time. What first seems to be a minor inconvenience soon involves death and suffering. Is the Devil along for the ride. I rate this supernatural thriller meets locked room mystery film (for those curious, I did not take well to it).
BLOT: (10 Feb 2011 - 09:00:19 PM)
[Movie Review] Devil [2010 Supernatural Horror, Locked Room Mystery]
Five strangers enter an elevator in a high-rise business building. On floor 31, the elevator comes to a screeching stop. Natural tensions start building until the lights start flickering, at which point things get worse. First a bloody wound, and then a death. Something horrible has come to elevator 6 and it might be a killer, or it might be the Devil.
As far as premises go, I'm in. As far as actors and even most of the dialogue goes, I'm in. Good stuff. By the time you get a whole package tied up, though, I found myself thoroughly dissatisfied by the result. I think part of it might have been the incessant hammering of the theme into our brain. The Devil. *SLAM* Walks. *SLAM* And. *SLAM*. Tortures. *SLAM* FOLK. *SLAM* Maybe. Or maybe people are just jerks? No, wait, totally the Devil. *slam* *slam* *slam* Have you got the point, yet? You will before the movie is done, trust me. Because every single time the movie reaches a point where it has a chance to develop into something better, to toss in something like doubt or even depth, it stabs itself in the foot for fear of losing an audience so addicted to their iPhones and Androids that anything not turned up to utter obviousness might cause them to fire up some App and move on. This is Catholic horror for the Web 3.0 generation.
The other main problem is putting a decent cast and some decent dialogue into a situation where there are few real characters. Overly superstitious Latino? Ex-con who is a barely hinged black man? Manipulative, money grubbing emotionally unstable woman? Slimey marketing major? Jesus, let's not forget the alcoholic but determined cop who lost his family and now questions the existence of a higher power.
Incessant moralizing (the moral being how awesome the concept is, apparently) with stock characters cut lovingly from a Dover The Devil & I clip-art book? That's two hefty strikes from me; though frankly, your tolerance for the first might be higher than mine and the cardboard only starts to show if you have seen previous movies around this genre. Still, though, it could have worked. And you know what would have made it work? Set the whole thing in the elevator.
The whole thing. Have it start with them getting on. Everything else is flashbacks and personal revelations. Every few minutes, you get the flickering lights and someone gets hurt or killed, and no one knows who to trust. The voice of the operator and maintenance man are just voices. All they get is sound. And stop using dramatic irony to say "YES, IT IS THE DEVIL" because after a fairly early point, the only way it could not be the Devil is if the audience (you and I) hallucinated a couple of plot points or its the collectively least lucky building in the world. Also, drop the cop trying to investigate everyone to solve it after you have gone out of your way to show scary faces in the mirror and faces showing up in the camera footage. We get it, he doesn't believe, but dragging us along for that ride was a waste unless it was him investigating what happened after the fact and the more he dug down, the more weird facts he found.
So that's it, put it all in the elevator (have the copy going up to investigate the opening suicide). Guess what, that gives you 6 people in elevator 6? See, it's like you wanted to do this.
The actual product is too preachy for me, and taking the action back and forth from the locked room to a big building that lacked a sense of urgency ruined anything like tension. I could have been made to feel claustrophobic, but instead I felt like a man watching a movie. I was curious who the culprit would be, but not so much that I cared. Had it turned out to be just collective psychosis, that would have been ok as long as the stock characters didn't make it. A friend of mine watched it and his review was "It was watchable". My review is a bit harsher, but I personally think that if I was in the mood, I would consider it the low-side of Fair, but as it is, it is the low side of Poor. Not quite blech, because it had some good scenes and a couple of characters that I was interested in. But any movie that involves M. Night Shyamalan anywhere in the project, even if he just wrote the initial treatment, had best not have character turn to another and call a third character a "twist", even if the word means something else. That's just begging for derision.
LABEL(s): Horror Movies
OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: February 2011