Monday, 23 July 2012

Devil



I think it's safe to say that, according to the majority of the world, M. Night Shyamalan's film attempts have been deteriorating. I can't comment, as, before this, I haven't seen any of his films. "The Last Airbender" got slated, and won tonnes of Raspberry awards. "Lady in the Water" got negative feedback, and so did "The Village". So, it's safe to say, Shyamalan was relying on this to re-start his career and get back on track to original, fully satisfying movies. Can it? Maybe. Just Maybe. 


Devil's plot is simple. Five people, trapped in a broken down elevator, one of which is the Devil. They are being observed by a maintenance worker of the building through a camera. He can see them, but not hear them, whereas they can hear him but not see him. Four out of the five people have negative backgrounds; one's a thief, one's a fraud, one's a pathological liar and one has a violent back-story. One of them seems completely innocent, but he's the one who hasn't checked into the building. Time is running out, people are turning against each other and the Devil looms. Can the security guards get the four innocent people out in time? 

As I said, it's simple. But it's also very effective. For those who have seen "Buried", it's a bit like that, but on a smaller scale (bigger space, more people, we see outside the elevator...etc). I preferred "Buried" to this, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy "Devil". I found it to be intense, surprising, and....VERY scary! 

The only film that has ever left me physically shaking was "Paranormal Activity 2", which really affected me. If it came down to it, "Devil" was probably twice as bad. You see, instead of attempting to scare us with gallons of fake blood (Saw) or lots of loud noises and jumps (Paranormal Activity 1 & 2), "Devil" attempts both, but on a smaller scale. Smaller, but effective. We get some scenes with blood, some loud noises, and the parts where the lights go out. This makes it incredibly intense and shocking. The biggest scare I can mention without giving away plot aspects is this. The maintenance people are watching the elevator through a security camera within the lift. The lights in the lift go out, and for a fragment of a second, they flash back on to reveal all five characters dead on the floor of the lift, with blood and body parts scattered. When the lights come back on, they're all fine. Like I said, loud noise, and blood. See, it works! 

Another aspect of the film I have to praise is it's directing. Shyamalan didn't direct "Devil", he wrote it and produced it. It was in fact directed by John Erick Dowdle (don't worry, I haven't heard of him either...). He added little elements to the film that make us smile when they are noticed. Example 1: We all associated the colour red with the Devil, right? All of the characters have an item of red on them. The young woman's nails, the old woman's hair, the young man's satchel, the arrogant guy's tie and the security guard's logo (on his uniform) are all red. Example 2: We all association the number 6 (or 666) with the Devil, right? The number 6 is subtly referenced a lot. The building is number 333 (333 x 2 + 666), the elevator stops on floors 23 (2 x 3 =6) and 42 ( 4 + 2 = 6) and so on. These are subtle elements, but pretty clever. 

I also thought the acting was surprisingly decent. In modern horror films, they just assume we don't care about acting and throw as many people who can "scream" into the film as possible. However, the majority of characters in here pull of the roles pretty well. The five in the elevator are all mediocre, but more on a positive side. The maintenance workers are pretty good, any other characters are all OK. Not the best acting ever, but passable. The film's main flaw does come with it's characters though... 

Character Development. This is where it all goes wrong. If we have a simple plot, a cheap budget and a small scale set, why hasn't any effort gone into the characters and the script?! None of the characters have any detail; they're all horribly cardboard, and ineffective. What these characters go through is a horrific ordeal, and how can we sympathise if we know nothing about them? Also, the script was far from perfect. Clich├ęd and just dull, it comes as another downfall. I can't see everyone liking this film, and it's not exactly astonishing, but it makes for good, solid B-Movie fun. 

To Summarise: It's not for everyone, but "Devil" proves there is hope for the horror genre, and that simple, easy to follow plots are still effective and fun.


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