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Friday, October 15, 2010

Movie Review: Devil

I watched this film a couple of days ago since I happen to like M. Night Shyamalan. As a director, producer and more so as a writer, I’ve been a fan of this US-born Indian storyteller since his 1999 breakout hit “The Sixth Sense”. It’s great to hear the story of this relatively young turk who rose to become part of the top names in the tough and very demanding American movie scene. He’s got this sometimes pleasant, sometimes head-scratching signature in the films he’s written: that of an “unconventional unraveling which suddenly permeates the denouement of the narrative”. . . OUCH! . . .Ok, a 3-pound Webster’s dictionary fell from the shelf and hit me squarely on the head. What that simply meant was that there’s often a surprise twist in the climax of his films!

However, ever since 2004’s “The Village”, it seems he’s caught in a bit of a downturn. He made “Lady in the Water” in 2006 which apparently came from a collection of fanciful bedtime stories he told his own daughter. Personally, the idea sounded good but the translation into actual film? Its no “Lord of the Rings” I can tell you that. Ominously, 2008’s “The Happening” passed by unremarkably since I believe the death-inducing- epidemic-wind projected on the film isn’t as menacing as it should have been. Recently his version of “The Last Airbender” left a lot of the fan boys feeling underwhelmed, as if the mythos of this popular Nickelodeon cartoon had been rendered bland, in spite of the ending which seems to indicate that there’s definitely more to come.

Don’t get me wrong though. Like I said, I’m a fan of his style and writing. It’s sometimes the execution of his more recent works that fall short of what they could have been. Afterall, as the old saying goes: “the devil is in the details”.

Admittedly he didn’t write the film, yet “Devil” was a story by Shyamalan that’s also supposed to be the first installment of a planned trilogy called “The Night Chronicles”. It revolves around a simple plot with loads of potential: five people get trapped inside an elevator with the chances of repair or rescue getting to be very challenging. The main cast of unwilling captives inside the steel box is a businessman with no sense of how annoying he really is, a seemingly sweet old lady, a guy who looks like the one you bump into the street everyday, a charming and privileged-looking woman and a temp security guard who seems to have a very large chip on his shoulder and just wants to make it thru the day. There are plenty of possibilities for claustrophobia (which one of them conveniently had), paranoia, psychotic breakdowns and bladder-control failures. Sounds fun! And to top it all of, one of them could be the devil himself in disguise! Interested? I know I am. Their only link to the outside and normalcy is via a one-way close circuit camera linked to two clueless security guards. I also haven’t mentioned another character, that of a traumatized and jaded police detective who suffered a painful loss sometime back who may just be the possible hero figure, or is he?

The ambiance for the supernatural is set when a story is explored of how the devil comes into this world in human form and walks among us. What is his sinister purpose in doing so? Wreak havoc on the innocent? To torment and to tempt? Get what is due him? Well, I might give something away and spoil it for you but obviously, if you’re going to be stuck for many hours inside a cramped, enclosed space with total strangers suspended many floors up, you’re bound to get just a little edgy. The lights turning off and the sudden jolt from occasional falling descent from many heights up add to the “bite your nails” factor as well. Of course you won’t be disappointed if you’re expecting some tense moments coupled with the occasional blood, murder and carnage literally a few inches from you and you can’t escape being captive along side with it. Don’t forget the surprise twist somewhere in there too.

Overall, I think the movie was entertaining enough to spend the afternoon on, though certainly not something you tell your friends excitedly about. Here’s looking forward to the rest of the Night Chronicles which could prove to be the great turnaround for Shyamalan.

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