Devil (John Erick Dowdle, 2010)

It used to be a surefire hit for movie to be associated with the distinctive label of M. Night Shayamalan. He directed, wrote, produced and sometimes acted as cameo in some of the most original modern days' cinematic achievement. However his fall from grace began after some back to back turkeys of Lady in The Water (2006), The Happening (2008) and the TV series adaptation of The Last Airbender (2010). Now I think he had realized that he should let his trusted associates to bring his idea to the screen. The story he provided (he did not pen the script) will be the first of 3, from a planned supernatural thriller anthology called The Night Chronicles. Still, Shyamalan's familiar modus is evidently shown here, it was set in his own soil Philadelphia; his long time collaboration, Tak Fujimoto is the director of photography; plus the holy moly plot twist elements are back!

The movie begins with a voiceover telling us about how the devil roams the earth teasing and torturing sinned people before taking their souls to eternity hell. The opening credits shows an upside down panning view of gloomy Philly skyscraper. At one of the office high rise, five strangers entered that office tower riding a same elevator, it was then struck by a sudden malfunction midway, and soon follows by series of bizarre, unexplained events, all happened in the confined metal box. A detective, still mourning at the loss of his family in a hit and run road accident, was called to calm the situation and try to get them out before the conflict between them turns real ugly. Apparently, one of the five strangers in that elevator is not what "it" appear to be......

My first impression for Devil is, it is an extended The Twilight Zone episode spanning 70-ish minutes. Huge chunk of the movie take place in the elevator, interweave with real time plot happen elsewhere. The voiceover in the movie works like a charm guide, at times warns the audience the imminent dangers and also devilishly manipulate our anticipation. This bone chilling Devil reminds us the tell-all sign to look for from a great scary movie is, because it never rely on cheap sudden jolting scare, nor it depends on full-blown gore and blood.

Everytime the lights in the elevator inexplicable went off, the screen goes total black, it only accompanied by the eerie whirling sound effect heighten by the surround cinema speakers. You will only able to see the aftermath of the carnage, not during the invisible force at work. Nevermind, the tension of waiting for the next trainwreck is enough to agonize you. Forget about the subliminal shots of the devil, the script also offers further religious undertone such as the belief of everything happens for a reason, or the hypothetical statement of "If you believe in god, then you will have to believe in the devil". As for the big plot twist mentioned above, I will not reveal it here, a minor hint I can give is, just think of it as a reversal of retribution to foil someone's coup de grĂ¢ce.

This movie will not scare the daylight out of people who take elevator as opposed to say, that famous shark movie has inflicted on the beachgoers' mind with permanent scar. Though, claustrophobic individual should avoid it at all cost. I was among the skeptics who scoffed at the "M. Night Shyamalan Presents:" on top of a movie title before this movie. Now with less of his involvement in this horror chiller, my cynicism against him evaporates until he bring on the next chapter of The Night Chronicles.

1 star = Pathetic, SowYau feel ashamed of watching it
2 stars = Off the mark material, approach with caution
3 stars = Generally good, you should watch it if it's your favourite genre
4 stars = excellent, strongly recommended
5 stars = A classic status? only time will tell. But it is definitely in SowYau's Hall of Fame List