Director: John Erick Dowdle
Starring: Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green and Jenny O'Hara
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Runtime: 81 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Horror themes and violence

With a title like Devil and the publicity highlighting the horror-diabolical elements of the plot, it is obvious that this is a film for fans of the genre. Personally, I thought it was very good. I jumped several times and actually felt a bit eerie at key points. At just 80 minutes, it sets out to tell a tale of a haunted elevator, of the presence of the devil, the power of vengeance and judgment for evil deeds. And that is what it does, efficiently and effectively.

Set in Philadelphia, whose skyline appears vividly during the credits – but upside down. We are disoriented from the start. And we are told that this is the first of a trilogy of Night Chronicles.

In a very modern office block, five people find themselves together in the lift, going up. Then it stops. The effect of this kind of story is that it could happen to any of us (and having been trapped with 25 people in a hospital lift for a half hour or more, I can vouch for this). We identify with these characters. We know that they will clash, be afraid, become desperate, even though they can be seen from security cameras and they can hear the voices of the officers as well as the police who arrive on the scene because there has already been a suicide jumper from the 35th floor and detectives are investigating. But, they cannot be heard, only seen.

The same song plays over and over. The lift jolts. Lights go out. The five bicker… and then a succession of deaths. But, who could be doing it?

A Hispanic security guard tells a voiceover story of how the devil disguised himself and takes people to himself who deserve it. So, which one of the five is the devil – or not?

The film builds the tension. Mechanical difficulties are not solved. There are more deaths.

And, the investigating detective has his own back story of grief at his family’s death in a hit-run accident, his drinking, his feelings of hatred for the unknown perpetrator.

Lots of little clues are scattered throughout the film – often to mislead the audience into rash opinions about the killer and the devil.

It all comes together by the end – and the devil doesn’t always win.

Many of the reviewers and bloggers attack the producer of the film, M. Night Shyamalan, who won friends with The Sixth Sense but whose reputation has gone downhill and become the target of hate bloggers. They seem to be reviewing him rather than the film, even though he is responsible for the story, not the writing and direction. The director is John Erick Dowdle who directed the remake of the Spanish horror film, Rec, the American film, Quarantine. Shyamalan also gives his name to the Night Chronicles. He was even condemned by one reviewer for moralising, being didactic, at the end of the film. In fact, the film does, especially in terms of redemption and forgiveness. But, it fits with this kind of terror-horror fable.

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