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Saturday, September 18, 2010


Go see Devil. Right now. Just drop everything and rush to your local cineplex or whatever and see this movie. I know I know, it's an M. Night movie, but it's good. It's somewhere between Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense on the coolometer, but it's light-years better than The Happening or The Village. The usual SPOILERS warning, but since you just dropped everything to go see the movie, you're good to go, right?

Okay, so the movie has a narrator, an Hispanic security guard in a Chicago skyscraper. He starts out telling us that The Devil exists, and that every day The Devil is trying to find new ways to drag sinners to Hell. But there are warning signs before His arrival: a person will die under bizarre circumstances, for example; things "go wrong"(the example used in the film is that a piece of toast with jelly on it will always fall jelly-side-up in normal circumstances, but will flip over when it's all "wrong". Uh-huh.)

Anyway, we see the above-mentioned "bizarre death", a suicide where a person dives off a skyscraper, plummets onto the roof of a truck, and the truck rolls down the street and turns a corner, which throws off the CSIs at first. Then we meet our potential "Devil" candidates: a young businessman; a middle-aged/elderlyish woman; an attractive young woman with an accent; a 30-somethingish security guard working as a temp; and a young mechanic who looks a bit scruffy, but seems nice enough under the rough exterior. All are trapped in an elevator in the Chicago building the narrator works in. Most of these folks are just referred to by their description, by the way: instead of names, we get Old Woman, Young Woman, Mechanic, etc.

The main action outside of the elevator involves a disgruntled cop. He's bitter because his wife and child were killed in a car wreck, and the other driver involved fled the scene. But before this person escaped, they left a note, scrawled onto a coupon: "I'm so sorry"...nice, huh? So this cop, haunted by his family's unsolved deaths, is the first to arrive. He originally was investigating the jumper, but when he realized where the jumper fell from was several feet from where the truck drifted, his examination of the accident scene led him to the building as the elevator malfunctioned.

The action starts right away, no lengthy set-up or everything-right-goes-gradually-wrong scenario here. The elevator rises 20-plus stories, then just stops dead. The passengers can hear the security guys and maintenance guys on the emergency intercom-type device, but no one can hear what's happening from the elevator side of things. A worker attempts to descend to their position by way of ropes, but falls to his death, landing on the roof of the elevator...effectively cutting off their escape route through the emergency hatch. Another worker gets electrocuted when he attempts to re-program the controls from a basement panel.

The passengers get on each others' nerves pretty damn fast, and Young Woman is attacked the first time the lights briefly go out. When they come back on, she has a pretty nasty gouge in her back. She claims that someone bit her or stabbed her in the dark, but even the guys watching from the security monitors aren't completely sure of what transpired.

In classic horror-movie fashion, the passengers begin dying, one by one. Basically each death is set up in a similar fashion: as the security guards, cops and rescue workers watch the elevator cam, the lights in the elevator go out for a minute or so, and when they turn back on, someone inside has died. The first to go is the shifty Young Businessman. He is covered in his own blood, no apparent suspect, because none of them seem to be covered in blood from doing the deed.

In the meantime, the Hispanic guy is getting hysterical over something he's seen on the monitor. Rewinding the security tape, he pauses the image on what appears to be a face superimposed over the image of the elevator's occupants. Although some of the security guys and rescue guys admit the image is weird, they scoff when he claims it's an image of The Devil Himself. Amidst his dire warnings, religious quotes and prayers, they kindly ask him to stop scaring the passengers and shut the furry fuck up. At one point, he even freaks out the passengers by praying, in Spanish, over the intercom.

The lights go out a third time. When power returns, the Old Woman is dead, a victim of strangulation by noose. Now the final 3 are REALLY freaked out by each other. They mutually agree to each stand at a different wall, and place both hands on the wall until the rescuers can break through the wall to reach them.

By now, a few more twists have occurred at the security post. First, Mechanic's Wife has arrived to verify his identity as one of the passengers. Second, there have been background checks made on each passenger, using a combination of the security sign-in sheet, and a scan of their faces into the law enforcement databases. The cop discovers that each passenger has had a criminal or murky past: the Young Businessman, for instance, was a dishonest, thieving a-hole that no one he worked with trusted, due to a Bernie Madoff-type financial scandal. The Security Temp had been a sniper in Iraq, with many deaths on his conscience. Everyone inside the elevator had been hiding some dark secret from their past. The Young Woman was somehow tied to the company that installed the elevator, in some kind of blackmail scheme.

The elevator goes dark once more. When the lights are restored, Security Temp is dead, his head twisted completely around to face his back. Ouch. The Young Woman and the Mechanic both panic, each afraid that the other is on a killing spree. As they accuse each other, the elevator falls a distance and goes dark again...and here's where the shizznit gets REALLY weird!

Young Woman is on the floor, badly injured by being knocked around as the elevator fell. As Mechanic is telling er he didn't hurt her, Old Woman stands up, very much not dead(but not alive, by the conventional definition). Her eyes are jet-black. She tells Mechanic that his was the soul she really wanted in Hell, because his secret was the worst.

Flashback: a stormy night. A woman and her young son are driving home, when a vehicle comes out of nowhere, and they have a collision. Both mother and child are thrown through the windows by the impact, dead before they hit the ground. The other driver was the Mechanic. He panics, because he'd been drunk driving, and he knows he'll be sent away for a LONG time if found guilty, so he scrawls the apology note to the cop, attaches it to the windshield, and drives away as fast as he an.

Mechanic hates himself for what he has done, and stopped drinking. He had been trying to seek redemption by being a better husband and father, but the shame was eating him up inside. The Devil restores the intercom so that he can confess to the cop who he is, and he does so, tearful and full of remorse. He then begs The Devil to take him to Hell, but to spare the life of the Young Woman.

The rescue team manages to break through the wall at that point. They find 3 bodies, and the Mechanic, very much alive but consumed by grief. Old Woman/The Devil is gone. The Cop arrests Mechanic, and tells him as they drive to the police station that he forgives him.

Good movie! It's incredibly fast-paced, given an 80-minute running time, so it avoids the over-complicated, messy plots of M. Night's misfires. It's even one of the rare films I WANT to see on an unrated DVD, to see what inevitably wound up on the cutting-room floor.(Not just scary elements, which I'm sure there are more of, but there was also a plot involving the cop with a female co-worker that seemed like there was some more to it than what was shown) I hope this marks some kind of turning point in his career, with more of these concise, tense, and genuinely frightening stories. A solid 5 killer trees for Devil, which delivered a lot of good, nasty fun in a clever variation of classic Agatha Christie craziness.

And what did I glean from Devil?
-Even a PG-13 can be a scary movie.
-M. Night's still got it.
-Old Women are evil...although I learned this lesson before, from that Dennis Quaid movie Legion.

Coming up next, I'll start diving into the original Friday the 13th's, in order. Also, I have one called Spring Break Massacre to watch as soon as I send this one back. Should be fun(I hope)!