**** (4 stars)
If the above statement is true, than "Devil" is a truly good scare. While leaving the advance screening last night, one of the organizers asked if M. Night Shymalan had redeemed himself. The answer is both yes and no. While the story and screenplay (with help from "Hard Candy" and "30 Days of Night" scribe Brian Nelson) really works; he didn't direct this feature and that's part of why it works as well. At a tight 80 minutes, Devil is half as long as Shymalan's usual fare. It's also less preachy than his normal work and focused more on scares and less on what I call the "Shymalan stare"- characters stare at each other, the distance, the floor, for what seems like hours. It's annoying. Instead, "Devil" is helmed by John Erik Dowdle who previously remade "Quarantine" ([Rec]- Spain 2007).
The mythology of "Devil" is pure Shymalan- The Devil sometimes come to Earth to collect the souls of the wicked, starting with a seeming accident and ending with the death of one victim's in front of their loved one. To quote "The Usual Suspects", "...and with that- poof- he is gone". Enter our cast of misfits who, if you've seen the trailer I'm not spoiling anything here, get trapped in an elevator OF DOOM!!!!
The cast is well rounded with seasoned character actors from both the big and small screen. Chris Messina ("Julie & Julia") plays the lead detective on the case along with security guard and narrator Jacob Vargas ("Jarhead"). Trapped in the elevator is a mishmash of vagrants- Bokeem Woodbine ("Saving Grace") is a security guard at the building, Logan Marshall-Green ("Dark Blue") is the loner, Geoffry Arend (I call him Mr. Christina Hendrix) is the sleazy salesman, Bojana Novakovic ("Drag Me To Hell") the hot chick, and Jenny O'Hara ("Big Love", "Mystic River") is the creepiest old lady known to man. They all have secrets and it's only in uncovering them that they might save themselves. But, you know what they say about playing a game with the devil...
The movie keeps you guessing until the end with a twist that reminds you of "The Sixth Sense". I thought I knew what was going to happen until I was pleasantly surprised each time it changed direction.
The amazing Tak Fujimoto kept the action tight and interesting within the confines of the elevator as only an award winning cinematographer can. He has shot all of Shymalan's films (you must admit, they all look wonderful) as well as "Silence of the Lambs", "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", "Gladiator", and HBO's "John Adams". The opening credits are ridiculous though and tried far too hard to be clever. It's like Shymalan was in the room when they were put together. Don't listen to him!!
Much of the fun we had (thanks ladies for coming with me to a midnight screening on a weekday!), was the audience. The theatre was packed and everyone was involved. At one point, we were all yelling at a character who decides to investigate a noise he heard in the dark. Instead of yelling "No", I yelled "Walk into the dark!". Everyone laughed. Movies like this require a theatre audience and more importantly, an audience who gets involved.
If you love horror, suspense, and yelling at the screen you must see "Devil" while it's in theatres.