The devil is fiction’s greatest anti-heroes. A being of pure brute calculated force, the devil has many names, and many appearances and is without a doubt the most interesting figure in all of history, an individual whose sole purpose is personal gain and pure unbridled joy in making humanity suffer. But in all of its incarnations, the devil is also someone who has something of a moral code, and a guideline, and always has something to say about the disgusting bile of the human sole. The devil is the very reflection of ourselves, and the character always has something to teach us. Even before destroying us from the inside out barely flinching at our cries for help and mercy.
“Devil” is yet another spin on the ancient character we know as the devil, a monster so horrific we can barely imagine its true form, and in this M. Night Shyamalan fueled horror film, it takes on a mysterious form among a small group of strangers, hopelessly stuck in an elevator in the bowels of a high rise building. Seemingly brought together by circumstance, the strangers residing in the small cart soon find that there is something much more harrowing than cabin fever at play, when one person discovers bites on her back, and visions appear before them of a blood bath that has yet to come. Chris Messina is fantastic as the conflict Detective Bowden, a recovering alcoholic still grappling with the death of his family from a hit and run driver who is brought to this high rise to sort out what seems like a small disturbance among passengers.
Soon it transforms in to a fight between good and evil before their very eyes where Bowden and the elevator technicians can do nothing but the extraordinary events unfold. Jacob Vargas brings his usual down to Earth acting prowess to the sharp cast as the theistic Ramirez who is one of the first to detect a demonic presence in the cart, and immediately is convinced that this accident and technical foul up is actually a lunch date for the devil. As with Shyamalan’s trademark style, “Devil” has a twist to it, and what a whopper of a punch to the gut it is as writer Brian Nelson builds up to an explosive reveal all the while alluding throughout the story that what we’re seeing is not what we should be believing.
“There’s a reason why we’re the audience,” Ramirez insists to Bowden as they watch the body count increase among the increasingly horrified and paranoid denizens. All the while the mystery of who among these men and women are Satan is left in the air as Nelson dabbles in realms of sin, clues to a potential twist to this event, and offers up the allusion throughout that maybe the devil is merely just a metaphor for someone on the elevator who is on a mission none of the characters are aware of. As with most of the supernatural films delving in the realm of theism, Nelson and director Dowdle ponder on the themes of fate, karma, and deception, all the while exploring the notion that the devil resides where hate and violence dwell.
“Devil” is a classic claustrophobic horror film relying on closed in spaces, and plays on light and sound to keep the audience struggling to make sense along with the passengers all the while anxiously trying to figure out who in this cart is a hapless traveler, and who is pure evil incarnate. The answers are much more complex than the trailers would have you believe. If this is the first of the “Night Chronicles,” I am anxious to see where director and producer M. Night Shyamalan takes us next. Very much an extended episode of “The Twilight Zone” this is an excellent and often intense peak in to the battle of good and evil, the power of souls and the hand fate can play in the good and bad we’ve done in our lives.