the night chronicles 1: Devil
Starring Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, Jenny O'Hara, Bojana Novakovic, Bokeem Woodbine, Geoffrey Arend, Jacob Vargas, Matt Craven. Story by M. Night Shyamalan. Written by Brian Nelson, Directed by John Erick Dowdle. Release: 17 September 2010. Universal, 80 mins., Rated PG-13
Plot: Five people are trapped in a elevator, one of them is the Devil.
Semi-related rant: oh boy was I happy DEVIL finally came out. Not so much for a eagerness to see it, which didn't so much happen anyway (just saw it a couple days ago), but more for the release of having to watch the damn commercial every time a break came about on Hulu. Blimey.
The truth is, I rather enjoyed DEVIL. Specifically, I enjoyed the story and the resolution. The script was rubbish, truly, really rubbish, but more on that later. Before I go on, I must clarify: yes, I had a pleasant time watching the flick, and I find myself recommending a blind rental to fellow movie lovers, and I will praise where necessary, but the majority of this review will be a critical eye concerning the films many pitfalls and minor but admirable successes. But just remember: I liked it.
There's something inherently chilling and simultaneously captivating about the notion of five strangers stuck in a elevator with the Devil. It's not so much the guessing game of which one of them is the Devil, but the journey of the characters, and how the situation deteriorates from bad to worse. A story like so has infinite possibilities, and the tone of the executed story could be both dark and comical at the same time. Frankly, I fell in love with the concept, but going in, I knew not to expect much based off the countless times I saw the trailer. But first and foremost, I thought I'd start the review on a positive note: story, fantastic. And the resolution - "twists" aside (although I was very pleased the individual I thought was the Devil was indeed the Devil, and damn that was a good performance) - was very satisfying and pretty much brilliant. Not like oh my god, you're a genius!!! brilliant, but in the same category of that was clever, and I quite liked that.
Now when I mentioned the script was rubbish but yet I loved the story, how so, you ask? Dialogue, my friend, the dialogue. About just as bad as the stock, zero dimensional characters that take up the screen. The script isn't as bad as MARMADUKE, no doubt, but every line, from the police to the sporadic narration, just comes off forced (let alone delivered with no enthusiasm from the cast) and worthy of overused-cliched-lines-of-dialogue award of some sort. There is a nice bit mentioned in the script that when "He" shows up, things go all upside down, and is visually presented not just by the poor jelly sandwich, but also the opening sequence panning across Philadelphia, and when the evil is gone, similar shots are correct and 'normal' again. It's the small little touches I appreciate the most, I guess. Oh, and in case the title didn't give it away, there is a dose of religious concepts in the flick, spoken primarily by one of the elevator monitor workers, spouting off basically exposition and ominous, foreboding lines about Him. And that this is, of course, happening for a reason. If scripter Brian Nelson could have found a more clever way of realizing these ideas through the script instead of the horribly contrived fashion it is now, I would be far more pleased.
As mentioned briefly, I also thought most of the performances were sucktacular. Bokeem Woodbine as The Guard was obnoxious from beginning to end, and his final fate had me clapping with glee. Jenny O'Hara gave the most interesting performance, frankly, even though she wasn't given a great amount of material to work with. Another performance just as interesting and impress was Bojana Novakovic as the younger gal, Sarah. Novakovic successfully made me second guess my assumption of the Devil's identity, and when I wasn't thinking about that possibility, I was simply engaged by the frightened, manipulative, and stone cold individual this character was. Interesting, indeed. The (500) DAYS OF SUMMER guy who I was looking forward to watching somehow came across more obnoxious than Woodbine (gasp). Jacob Vargas as Ramirez is the one spouting off the forced religion mumbo jumbo, and he simply couldn't pass it off remotely convincingly, instead coming across as a bad inside joke ("It's a Shyamalan produced flick; we gotta get at least one really bad actor"). And as Detective Bowden, well, I frankly found all the police performances from the SAW movies to be more convincing and dramatically engaging. Throw us another Detective Hoffman. However, I did like the final twist between him and the mechanic - that was good stuff.
In the end, DEVIL has some downfalls, plenty of 'em, but the overall movie is pretty good. Until the final act, then it just gets really, really good. Two twists, a bookending conclusion, and a nice dramatic moment between two survivors. Oh! And I would be remiss to leave this review without mentioning the terrific score, especially prominent in the opening credits sequence (chills, man, chills!), composed by Fernando Velázquez (worked on THE ORPHANAGE). Sadly no CD seems to be on the horizon, but I'd most definitely be interested. The first of a series called The Night Chronicles, a story that had some momentously awesome potential that fell short a bit, I'll nonetheless be tuning in for the other two.