At heart, there’s a mildy interesting idea at the core of Devil, and in a year when one-location films have sustained 90 minutes quite well, the opening few minutes offer real hope that it might just deliver on its premise.
That premise, as you may know, came from the increasingly-maligned M Night Shyamalan. But, for my money, his idea here is a sound one: there are five people in a lift, and one of them, er, isn’t quite who they seem.
Keeping the running time lean to 80 minutes, director John Erick Dowdle sets to work turning the idea into a solid film. And he gets off to a terrific start, with his opening sequence proving disorientating and effective. Once he gets everyone into the lift, though, the film stutters, primarily down to the indecisive screenplay.
Brian Nelson glued together the words from Shyamalan’s story, and he’s unsure how to balance the movie. How much time do you give to the people in the lift? How much to the cop-with-a-background on the outside? And what about the security folk looking at a bank of monitors and occasionally trying to say something sensible? It’s not too much to juggle, but Nelson’s script doesn’t feel like it gets the mix right.
Dowdle, though, really does give it his all. Particularly towards the end of the film, he manages to wring some surprising and welcome creepy moments, and there’s a feeling here that, given stronger and more rounded material, he may just have a terrific film in him. Because, try as he might with Devil, it’s far from a terrific film.
In fact, as it meanders on, it’s hard to sustain too much interest in it. It’s frustrating, too, as the ingredients are clearly here, and the benefit of the cheap-but-effective cast is that it lacks the obvious star name, meaning there’s genuine unpredictability.
But it feels like a project hampered from the start, and if Shyamalan is looking to genuinely make this the first of a series of films under his Night Chronicles banner, then another few weeks in the writing room would serve him and the end production well.
As it stands, Devil sparks into life just occasionally, but feels like it’s wasting its ideas for most of its running time.
The presentation of the film, it has to be said, is terrific, not least the establishing shots, which come across a treat.
There’s not much to feast on in the extras section, though, with some pitifully brief featurettes and deleted scenes that won’t keep you occupied for much more than ten minutes.
Basically, there’s nothing in the supplemental material to give the disc any kind of extra value.
The Film:The Disc:
Devil is out now on Blu-ray and available from the Den Of Geek Store.
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