Never content with merely damaging his own reputation, M. Night Shyamalan has expanded from ruining franchises to mentoring those he considers innovators In their field.
Yet the only truly ominous moment comes with the realisation that this is merely the first instalment in his “Night Chronicles” trilogy, attempting to best well established series such as the “Twilight Zone”.
Regardless of Night’s position as producer it simply falls upon someone else to expand a paper thin plot into an 80 minute B-Movie hopeful. Director John Erick Dowdle may resort to slightly differing visual styles to the self-appointed auteur, the signature is inescapably Shyamalan.
A shortness of scale as regards time does however invariably save the piece from descending into the lunacy that accompanies a typical Shyamalan directed picture.
Investigating the suicide of an office worker, Detective Bowden (Chris Messina), a man already reeling from the loss of his wife and daughter, discovers five strangers trapped inside an elevator in the very same building. However Ramirez (Jacob Vargas), a security officer at the scene points out that amongst the five: the temp (Brokeem Woodbine); the elderly woman (Jenny O’Hara); the salesman (Geoffrey Arend); the mechanic (Logan Marshall-Green); and the heiress (Bojana Novakovic), one of them is the devil in disguise sent to test the other four who are far from innocent.
Ramirez is perhaps the embodiment of the needless seriousness granted to the project, laying a heavy hand over the action in such a way as to remove any real suspense. He is however constantly aided by the crew’s inability to turn their limited environment to their advantage, believing that a constant fade to black will somehow spare us form discovering the obvious and inevitable twist when in fact it serves only as a means to sanitise a potential thriller.
This could have been alleviated through the audience forming emotional attachments with the denizens of the plot but their characterisations leave little room for the same, meaning we care little for their ultimate fate. Each are one-dimensional to the point that they may satisfy the need for delineation but never genuine humanity.
Ironically most of these issues could have been solved or at least addressed with more time to establish Itself, to create a real sense of foreboding and attachment. More importantly, that would have required a more proficient team (something “Devil” lacks); the constant flow of time towards its extremely concise running time instead makes it admittedly watchable.
Ever so slightly camp, predictable and with a script that reeks of being borrowe, it’s nothing short of astounding in its mediocrity coming from the man that gave us “The Last Airbender”.