Directed by John E. Dowdle, Devil (trailer) is a supernatural horror thriller cum whodunit set largely in the lift of a Philadelphia office building, and produced under the auspices M. Night Shyamalan, prolific maker of supernatural themed films.
With a screenplay written by Brian Nelson (Hard Candy), “Devil” is the first in the “The Night Chronicles” trilogy of horror movies. Here, according to legend, each year the devil assumes human form, rounds up a small group of people who have committed grave misdemeanours, and makes them pay for their wrongs with their lives.
Detective Bowden (Chris Messina), a recovering alcoholic grieving over the recent loss of his wife and child killed in a hit and run car accident, is investigating a rather odd jumping suicide in downtown Philadelphia when he is reassigned to a nearby tower block where five people are trapped in a lift stalled half way up.
The five, Ben (Bokeem Woodbine) a security guard, Vince (Geoffrey Arend) an overbearing mattress salesman, Sarah (Bojana Novakovic) a regular visitor to the building, Tony (Logan Marshall-Green) a mechanic going to a job interview, and Jane (Jenny O’Hara) an older woman, are needless to say, becoming mildly agitated.
Mobile phones don’t work, and the lift’s speaker is broken meaning Bowden can only talk one way to those trapped. Things take a turn for the bizarre when the power supply begins cutting out, plunging the lift into total darkness. Each time the lights come back on, someone has either suffered an injury, or worse still, been murdered.
Bowden soon finds himself conducting multiple murder investigations, and as his inquiries continue, finds all in the lift have something to hide, and a possible motive for killing someone present. Meanwhile Ramirez (Jacob Vargas), another security guard, is convinced the deaths and mayhem are in fact the handiwork of the devil…
There’s no denying “Devil” is a tense story, which also pulls one or two decent scare scenes out of the hat. For the great premise though the suspense has largely worn off after the second lights-out incident in the elevator. A narrative, intended to tell the story as it progresses, ends up posing more questions than it answers, and is really worse than useless.
Dowdle does keep proceedings ticking over at a steady clip, and sure the story never really loses its way, but then again it clocks in with a run time of just 80 minutes. I don’t know if you’ll ever be sharing a lift ride with the devil – hopefully not – but after this one thing is for sure, you’ll see the other people around you in elevators in a completely new light.