Going down: Devil review

Press the button and hold on for dear life – this is a journey you’re not going to enjoy if you’ve committed the odd sin…

If there’s ever a common fear that the modern citizen tends to fear, it’s getting stuck in a lift. Devil introduces us to a similar scenario, with one chilling difference: what if one of them was Satan? It’ll have you taking the stairs for years to come…

M. Night Shyamalan‘s Devil is a film that will chill you to the core and ensure that next time, you stay on the ground floor. Following five seemingly random people after they get in a lift, it explores the idea of the other kind of spiritual judgement – the one that ends up with you taking a ride down to the sub-basement level, otherwise known as Hell. It’s a scary prospect, and one that certainly gets your heart-rate up as one by one, the five strangers are judged by the devil amongst them.

The characters aren’t that fleshed out – at eighty minutes it’s a short film, so you run the disadvantage of not really feeling connected to them or their plight. But M. Night’s habit of slowly revealing the subtle machinations behind their presence in the lift, and the characters who try to get in really works in the film’s favour. We may not love them like family, but it’s dead scary watching them lose their wits every time the lights go off.

As befits a film about the supernatural, the film contains a religious security guard following the proceedings on the CCTV in his office who quotes Biblical verse and tells the police forces he sees faces in the video that he’s watching them with. Of course, the man is correct and it’s not until it’s too late that the rest of them agree with him. This is normal horror material: If the local cop doesn’t believe you in a horror film, he’s either in on the whole thing, or going to save the day at the last minute. What the police achieve, however, might spoil the end, so we’ll leave that one out.

The acting is impressive, which is more than can be said for a lot of films in the horror genre. Chris Messina makes for a solid detective, and Bokeem Woodbine is very believable as the rookie guard suffering from claustrophobia who usually takes the stairs. Their frustration with their confinement plays out well across the duration of the film, and the final reveal of who the devil is may actually surprise you, as M. Night’s skill with red herrings really comes into its own.

The movie is the first of the Night Chronicles, a series of supernatural thrillers based on original ideas from, although not written or directed by, M. Night Shyamalan. It’s fantastic to see M. Night writing new material, and with another two films to go until his three-films-one-per-year contract is up, we’re likely to see more like Devil. It’s fast-paced, full of frights and never a dull moment, with twists and turns that have delighted us since the mind-boggling revelation in The Sixth Sense. A great film for anyone who’s into horror and tense thrillers, though if you work on the forty-fourth floor, you might want to get used to the exercise!

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