3 Stars

Devil - Movie Review

Unfortunately, the name being most frequently attached to Devil is that of its producer, M. Night Shyamalan. The guy got off to a rip-roaring start with the first two films he wrote and directed, The Sixth Sense, and Unbreakable. But with each exponentially horrid release since, he’s pretty much alienated what little audience he had left.  And that’s a shame because Devil deserves the attention it’s likely to never receive.

Devil is the first in the promised series of supernatural thrillers from Shyamalan’s newly formed production company, The Night Chronicles. The company website makes it perfectly clear that Shyamalan will not write or direct any of the films, but will instead look to collaborate with inspiring filmmakers to help bring his original stories to life. This is where the filmmaker needs to be. We can certainly use his imagination, but let’s get him out of the director’s chair.

Based on an original concept from the sketchbook of Shyamalan, Devil‘s surprisingly clever script was written by Brian Nelson, who hit pay dirt with his Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night, both excellent pieces of work. The film was directed by Drew Dowdle and John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine, Poughkeepsie Tapes), who will unfortunately go mostly overlooked here. But The Night Chronicles, with Shyamalan producing – not writing or directing – seems to be headed in the right direction.

Devil is being promoted as a claustrophobic supernatural horror about five people trapped in an elevator, one of them a devil that kills the others. While that certainly describes the film’s elegantly simple premise, the experience is actually bigger than that.

There’s also an entertaining “whodunit” aspect to the film, as much of the fun to be had comes from trying to figure out who the killer is before all suspects are eliminated.  A thread involving a clever detective (Chris Messina) - accompanied by a couple of building security guards (Matt Craven and Jacob Vargas) - scrambling about to identify and extricate the trapped, gives the feeling of an elaborate police procedural.  Throw in some particularly gruesome murders, creepy noises in the dark, and of course elevator shaft carnage, and we’re in for a dark little tale of terror. Oh, there’s also the signature twist at the ending, but it’s not the overtly gimmicky kind we’ve come to expect from Shyamalan’s hand.

The film is rated PG-13, so nothing is ever over-the-top or extreme. It really doesn’t need to be though, as most of the killing happens when the lights go out in the elevator. Each time they flicker back to full brightness, the lights reveal the bloody aftermath strewn about the elevator floor. As bodies begin to pile up, floor space disappears, heightening the feeling of claustrophobia… like a rising waterline.

I’m not going to sit here and say that Devil is as effective as Sixth Sense or Unbreakable, (or even Signs or The Village). Time will determine that. But I do believe that if removed from any negative Shyamalan stigma, and given a chance to stand by itself, the film can work as a worthy tent pole to a successful Night Chronicles franchise. Nelson and the Dowdle brothers deserve that from viewers.

I’ve heard from several professional writers, critics, pundits, and the like, who are automatically knocking the film because of its pedigree. Some even say they enjoyed the film but gave it a negative grade anyway. Not only is that unfair to the filmmakers, it’s also a dishonest stance to take in an industry that really should present a face of unbiased integrity. No, critics and film bloggers are not necessarily traditional journalists, but most readers do come to eventually respect the words of serious film writers and therefore deserve honest opinions.

Devil is a creepy little story that succeeds because of its taut direction and clever writing. Give it a try. Despite what you’ve heard, you might be surprised.

Component Grades
Blu-ray Disc
3 Stars
1 Star
Blu-ray Experience
2 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - December 21, 2010
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
: English SDH, French, Spanish
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: DTS 5.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); Digital copy (as download); BD-Live; D-Box; Mobile features

Devil - Blu-ray Review

This isn’t the most satisfying of Universal’s 1080p/VC-1 transfers of late. The contrast seems off and the constant murkiness of black levels makes for an oily affair. Shadows bleed throughout the picture and a softening of the picture pops up from time to time. While some of the flesh textures are preserved in close-ups, the rest is a muddy un-picturesque affair. The soundtrack is good and, being presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, is quite strong in the rear speakers. Sometimes the front dialogue drops in levels making the mix a little straining. There is a genuine loudness to the music of the film which is a tad distracting at times.



  • None

Special Features:

For as little supplemental material as this release contains it might as well have been dumped in a back alley somewhere.  There simply is no meat.  It’s all fluff which is really a shame for a film that has as many promising moments as this one.  There are some random deleted scenes from the beginning of the film and the interview with UCLA Folklore & Mythology Professor Ysamur Flores is interesting if all too brief.  For those of you tired of M. Night Shyamalan, please note that his presence on this release is limited to a few interviews only.

The Special Features are as follows:

  • Deleted Scenes (4 min)
  • The Story (3 min)
  • The Devil's Meeting (2 min)
  • The Night Chronicles (2 min)
  • BD-Live
  • D-Box
  • My Scenes Bookmarking
  • Digital Copy