Five strangers get marooned in an elevator. In a shocking turn of events, they realize that the devil is secretively amongst them.
Back in 2010, I saw endless advertisements all over television for a movie called Devil. Of course, being just ten years old at the time of release, I didn’t actually go to see the film, but I was definitely intrigued by it. I hadn’t watched a single trailer for Devil but all of the commercials I saw as well as the poster captured my interest.
Which is why it came as such a shock to me today when I realized that ten years later, I still hadn’t seen it. This morning I was scrolling through Netflix, looking for something to watch that I hadn’t yet watched. Since horror is my favorite genre in any form of entertainment, I filtered my search results to only show me horror movies, and after about five minutes, I saw the thumbnail for Devil.
Going in, I really didn’t have any expectations whatsoever. I hadn’t heard anybody talk about the movie so I wasn’t expecting it to be great and I also wasn’t expecting it to be bad. I went in with a completely empty mindset. During the opening credits, however, I was quite pleased to see that M. Night Shyamalan came up with the story idea for the film, and since Shayamalan is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers, my excitement went up a little bit.
Unfortunately, this is one of Shyamalan’s weakest stories. Devil is not just a bad and amazingly unscary horror movie, but it’s also just a bad movie. It’s an hour and twenty-minute bore-fest with a flat story, uninteresting characters, and not enough scares throughout. For the most part, it’s just a film in which a group of people get stuck in an elevator together and yell at each other and get increasingly more angry about the situation as things go on.
Because the running time is so short, Devil doesn’t have any character development whatsoever. I honestly didn’t care about a single character throughout the entire movie and I would have been perfectly fine had all of them died within the first ten minutes. They all have one thing to do during the film – yell and get mad at one another.
It would have been at least something if the actors that were portraying these one-note characters were good, but they’re not. To say that all of the acting in Devil is quite horrible would be an understatement. They all feel as though they just rehearsed their lines of dialogue for the first time on set, practiced the lines once, and just went from there. Every time they speak, their dialogue feels so wooden. But none of them are as bad as Jacob Vargas as Ramirez, whose only character trait is that he works in building security. There’s one scene with his character in particular where he discusses myths about the devil that I simply couldn’t hold back laughter. It was supposed to be an extremely chilling and creepy scene but instead, it came across as corny and rather hilarious.
Devil isn’t all terrible, however. The atmosphere that lingers the whole way through is actually remarkably strong and carries a strong sense of dread. The lighting could have been a bit better, sure, but the feeling you get while watching the film is one of uncomfort even though the subject matter itself isn’t anything entertaining.
All of the acting aside though, the biggest problem with Devil is its story. There almost isn’t one. Throughout the entire thing, we just watch a couple of strangers standing around in an elevator while we occasionally cut back to people that work in the security department as they try to break them out. The whole devilish scary side of things doesn’t even kick in until about thirty minutes into the film, and even then, the film never fully commits to it.
It’s a shame because the premise behind the film has quite a bit of potential. Making a movie in which a couple of people are trapped in an elevator while the devil is secretly amongst them could be a really fun and exciting idea, but not with this script. The scariest thing that happens in Devil is the realization that this was supposed to be the first entry in a series of films. Luckily for us, that idea never moved forward.
Devil wastes its interesting and fresh concept on a poorly written script devoid of scares, character development, and entertainment value.
Overall Grade: D-
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and disturbing images, thematic material and some language including sexual references
Directed by: John Erick Dowdle
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release Date: September 17, 2010
Running Time: 80 minutes