Saturday, August 20, 2011

"31 Movies, 31 Days": #15 Devil

Movie: Devil (2010)
Budget: $10 million

Rotten Tomatoes: 52%
Format: Blu-Ray DVD

Bashing the work of M. Night Shyamalan has become something of a blood sport over the last few years as moviegoers and critics attempt to outdo each other with their hateful criticisms. Some of it is deserved, I'm sure, but much of it is pure hyperbole. I've not seen his two most recent "disasters," The Happening and The Last Airbender, and those are supposedly his worst yet, but I actually enjoyed very much the critically reviled Lady in the Water and also The Village. And so we now get Devil, a movie which Shyamalan did not direct, but instead produced and got a story credit for. It has his stamp all over it, so it's fair to add it, I think, to Shyamalan's oeuvre. So does it represent a return to excellence for a once-promising director, or is it more fodder for his haters? Based on the mediocre RT score above you'd think the latter...but you'd be wrong. Trapped-in-an-elevator-dead wrong.

Playing out like an extended episode of The Outer Limits, Devil tells the tale of five strangers trapped in an of which may or may not be the Devil. But rather than behave like a silly, gore-filled horror film, Devil is more like Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians. It's more mystery than horror, and this stylistic choice elevates a fairly basic premise. The glue to this movie is a very strong performance by Chris Messina, a supporting actor most often seen stealing scenes in independent movies, as he did in Away We Go. It's nice to see Messina get a leading role for a change, this time as a smart detective with a tragic past. If there's one way to get me to check out of a movie, it's having cops behave in stupid and unbelievable ways. That's not the case here. Everything Messina's character does seems utterly plausible, even when faced with an utterly implausible situation.

The same can not be said, unfortunately, of the trapped passengers. Those characters are a little more one-dimensional and forced, but not to a distracting degree, fortunately. There's a legitimate sense of claustrophobic paranoia in Devil and, at just 80 minutes long, it's a well-paced, brisk thriller that doesn't have enough time to get tired or stale. As with all Shyamalan films, there's a twist at the end, but it's a twist that works well within the themes of the movie and it's not as jaw-droppingly stupid as some of his others. The ending is, I can't believe I'm writing this, actually sort of moving.

Devil is not as scary as you might hope for or expect, but for me that was part of its appeal. I appreciated the mystery and storytelling, and it's simply better than a premise like this has any business being. Devil is not just surprisingly good---it's very good.

Kraig's Rating: 8/10

Movie #1: Skyline
Movie #2: Killers
Movie #3: The Iron Giant
Movie #4: The Adjustment Bureau
Movie #5: Rubber
Movie #6: The Fighter
Movie #7: The Winning Season
Movie #8: World's Greatest Dad
Movie #9: Hobo With a Shotgun
Movie #10: The Lincoln Lawyer
Movie #11: Stake Land
Movie #12: Horrible Bosses
Movie #13: Brooklyn's Finest
Movie #14: Rise of the Planet of the Apes


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home