Film: ‘Devil’; Director: John Erick Dowdle; Cast: Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, Jenny O’Hara, Rojana Novakovic, Bokeem Woodbine, Geoffrey Arend; Rating: ***
When Manoj Night Shyamalan entered Hollywood, he became a master of the quiet, suspense thrillers. But of late he has proved to be a disappointment. With ‘Devil’, however, which he has produced based on his own story, he seems to be regaining form.
Yet detractors of Shyamalan would point out that it is his lack of confidence that made him not direct the film himself.
‘Devil’ tells a simple moral tale. Five unconnected strangers are trapped in an elevator in Philadelphia. One of them is the Devil. The light inside the lift fluctuates and whenever it goes out completely, even for a few seconds, someone in the lift is killed.
A disbelieving police officer with a sad past, who is sitting in the control room where he can see live video of the lift, tries desperately to prevent the killings from happening. However, it turns out that the trapped strangers are not so innocent after all.
The devil in the film is a metaphor for the horrors inside us. None of us are absolutely pure, having done something or the other that was not right, but we hide this devil inside us and lie to ourselves about our purity.
But the only way to get rid of it, as the film suggests, is in seeking and granting forgiveness and redemption. Ironically, as the film closes, you realize the devil is not pure ‘evil’ after all. That he has to run away from a pure, repentant heart.
The hallmark of a good suspense film is the use of sound. Right from the beginning when the five strangers are ticked using an aural leitmotif, the sound design works with precision. It’s neither too shrill, nor too gentle.
The actors, picked mostly from TV, do a decent job, but none of them is exceptional.
From the looks of it, this 80-minute film is a relatively low budget affair put together quickly and a little more attention to detail, and logic would have made it much more worthwhile.
Despite this, unlike other horror films that fail even in their one intention to chill, ‘Devil’ does manage to pack a decent thrilling punch.