What is a better setup for a horror movie than a group of people trapped in an elevator? Devil (released in 2010) is a first movie in Night Chronicles trilogy, written by Brian Nelson (with the story created by M. Night Shyamalan), and directed by John Erick Dowdle. While the premise and the execution are very simple, Devil gets its message across quite effectively.
The movie opens with a narration from one of the characters, about the stories his mother used to tell him, of Devil walking the earth in the human form. In Philadelphia, five random people walk into an elevator in a skyscraper. The most mundane situation turns into a nightmare when the elevator stops for no obvious reason. While trying to figure out how to help the increasingly anxious people, the two security guards are able to see inside the elevator through a camera. Soon, it becomes more and more obvious that this is no ordinary accident, and that someone out of the five people is not who they seem to be.
The atmosphere is set with the opening shots of Philadelphia – upside down. It immediately gives an impression that something is wrong. The sky shrouded in clouds makes the predominantly gray cityscape even darker and more sinister. The movie also ends with shots of the city, not upside down this time, as if to signify that everything is back to normal. I found the soundtrack a bit overdramatic, and sometimes even killing the mood, but thankfully, the gloomy color scheme made up for the music. All the actors did a really good job with their characters, and even though we know practically nothing about them at the beginning, no one blends in, and everyone is a distinctive individual.
The movie uses the simplest device to create suspense and uneasiness – all the unexplained things in the elevator are happening when the lights are flickering or when they are turned off completely. Still, it turned out to be very effective, partly because the elevator provides such a confined space and it is hard to see who is doing what.
Devil is not particularly scary, yet something about it made me want to watch till the end. It is not dragged out, that’s for sure, and the quick pace definitely helps the story.