‘Devil’ Review

Published 5 years ago by , Updated March 3rd, 2014 at 6:44 am,

devil pic cast Devil Review

Screen Rant’s Kofi Outlaw Reviews Devil

If you’ve been in movie theaters the past few months, then you surely know the reaction people have had while viewing the trailer for Devil: they sit quietly intrigued up until the tagline “From the mind of M. Night Shyamalan” pops up on the screen. That’s when the laughs and/or boos begin.

However, it should be remembered that Shyamalan’s involvement with Devil is only that he wrote the story for the film and helped guide it along as the first chapter in his unfolding trilogy, The Night Chronicles. And let me tell you: having Shyamalan at a distance makes all the difference in the world. Devil may not be the greatest ghost story ever told, but it’s far more enjoyable than you might be expecting.

The premise is classic Shyamalan: On stormy day in Philadelphia, five strangers enter a high-rise office building downtown (for various reasons) and happen to get on the same elevator. Said elevator gets stuck, and while the building’s staff and some cops try to get the stranded passengers out of the elevator car, the passengers themselves begin to experience strange and deadly occurrences that set them against one another.

Now, people look at that simple premise – set in a single environment no less – and in their minds the odds of Devil having enough creative juice to sustain itself for 80 minutes start to fall fast. However, I am here to say that this is something of a misconception (one I was guilty of myself): Devil plays it smart by making efficient use of time, perspective and most of all story, in order to pull off in commendable fashion would could have been a total disaster. In true Shyamalan tradition there are some twists thrown into the mix for good measure – some you will totally see coming, and others you may not.

devil pic joe cobden Devil Review

First let’s talk pacing. Considering the time it takes to set things up and close things off, the actual screen time spent in the elevator clocks in at around 50 – 60 minutes. The events play out in real-time, which works to the film’s benefit because it keeps things tense and immediate, and allows the actors involved to channel their performances with high-octane intensity, since their characters are naturally going to be caught up in the frightful moment. The film is also smart about how it actually uses the “single-setting” format, which is actually a misleading label. Screen time is really split between the elevator and the happenings going on outside of the elevator, amongst the security guards and cops working to save the trapped passengers.

In fact, the actual bulk of the film’s actual storyline has to do with what’s going on outside the elevator, with elevator itself serving as the requisite catalyst.  Screenwriter Brian Nelson (30 Days of Night, Hard Candy) is the one who filled in the details of M. Night’s story, and he wisely keeps the dialogue between the passengers inside the box snap-crackling, while keeping us engaged with movement and physical action carried out by the players on the outside. This tight management of time and space keeps us intently focused (looking for that hint that will unlock the mystery), but also keeps us from getting too bogged down or bored.

Perspective was also handled wisely. Director John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine) switches between the characters inside the box and outside the box with enough frequency that we’re kept alert, interested and on our toes. When inside the elevator Dowdle uses smart camera angles, slowly panning round from the center of the box, capturing each passenger alone in frame for a moment, letting the actors’ performances hint at what they’re hiding, or what we should be suspicious of. The elevator feels like an enclosed and inescapable killing floor, and that only adds to the tension. Lighting is also used smartly – after all, it’s hard to guess who a murderer is when the killer only strikes in the dark; the use of sound in those “dark moments” is also employed to good effect. Bottom line: an elevator murder mystery is a premise that could easily fall off the rails, but filmmakers manage to keep the train on track the whole way to station.

devil pic cast2 Devil Review

The actors are for the most part “Seen them somewhere” faces who you might not recognize by name.  Bokeem Woodbine (Black Dynamite), Logan Marshall-Green (Dark Blue), Jenny O’Hara (Mystic River), Bojana Novakovic (Edge of Darkness) and Geoffrey Arend (500 Days of Summer) portray the five passengers trapped in the elevator, and they all play pretty well off one another as an ensemble. It also helps that each of the five actors is talented; every time you think you’ve guessed which one might be the one, another actor will give you reason to reconsider. They are good about keeping up the intense feeling of five people scared as hell (no pun), but not quite scared out of their wits. You’ll have to see the film to truly get what I mean.

devil messina craven vargas Devil Review

The players at work outside the elevator are also familiar faces with names you may not be able to place. Jacob Vargas (Traffic, Death Race) is great as the one security guard who is devoutly religious. It’s Vargas’ job to deliver all the hokey supernatural/religious exposition that is required by the story, and the actor wisely treats his role with enough tongue-in-cheek to steer us through those hokey bits with laughs instead of groans. Matt Craven (Public Enemies) plays the straight man to Vargas’ funnyman – a second security guard who thinks his partner’s religious warnings are a load of crap and isn’t afraid to tell him so. Chris Messina (Greenberg, Julie & Julia) plays Detective Bowden, the police detective who is called down to the scene and soon finds himself waist-deep in something he never expected.

I said that the story is also an aspect of Devil that was handled wisely, and that’s true. It’s hard to explain without dropping Spoilers, but I will say this: there is a story with a definite arch and point at work here, and it goes beyond what the initial “whodunit” premise suggests.

Devil TV Spots Devil Review

What Shyamalan has crafted feels more like his Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs days, rather than the frowned-upon latter half of his work portfolio. Devil reminds me of a time when the M. Night just wanted to tell entertaining stories that bent genre conventions, rather than stories that served as thin veils for his preachy or egotistical sermons.

Partnering with other talented filmmakers and writers clearly takes some of the pressure off and allows Shyamalan the space and freedom to simply do what he does best: tell clever and moving stories that chill, thrill and keep us guessing, and while it’s not the greatest movie ever, Devil certainly accomplishes those things.

Watch the trailer to help you make your decision on whether to see Devil:

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

TAGS: Devil
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  1. Jacob Vargas has always been reallly cool in my book. he doesnt get enough work in my opinion either, sad really. he was absolutely hilarious in Next Friday

    • You and I agree on this one, Anthony, he was great in NF and he brings some good relief to some potentially cheesy parts of this movie.

  2. Yessssss!!!!! I knew it was going to be good! Now i have to see it lol!!! Im excited!

  3. When are we going to get the “spoiler” devil talk i wanna know how it ends lol!

    Does it have a satisfying ending?!?

    • Rickster,

      Ack! I forgot to set that up! Thanks for the reminder – it will be up in a few minutes.


  4. Vic
    Glad to help ;)

  5. Nice to hear all the positive feedback surrounding this movie, very exciting & I myself can’t wait to see it!!

  6. i didnt read the whole thing this second (no time, do it later) but you mention in the title that he’s a better story teller than he is a film maker. But that doesnt excuse “Last Aribender” or “Lady in the Water”.

    i have to admit that if Shamalayans name wasnt attaached to this movie, it does look interesting to i may check it out in the future but i’m not gonna rush to the theater for it.

  7. Here’s our “Devil” spoilers discussion area:



  8. Nowhereman
    If the movie looks good you should see it so i think you should go to the movies for this.

    • i said it looks interesting, theres alot of interesting movies out there but i’m not gonna pay $10 to take a chance like this. i’ll just wait to get in on Netflix, thats all

  9. I have been looking forward to something really scary… I also enjoy that twist of absolute power that goes on within the less than reasonable… count me in!

  10. I’m REALLY glad that this movie was actually good! I think M. Night is a very good storyteller (as seen in The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs) but he just got caught up in his own ego!

    Hopefully after this he can come back (eventually) and Direct a movie that is worthwhile again!

  11. I’ll wait for it to come out on Red Box for a buck. M. Night has always made me mad. I spend good money and end up wasting an hour and a half of my life only to be b***slapped by a lame ending

    • Agreed. I’ll not waste any more of my hard earned cash on his film. I might check this out once it hits Netflix, though.

  12. Kc
    LOL thats why i asked if the ending was good.

  13. All I have to say is very GOOD.

    • Completely agree. I thought it was original and better than most of the crap now out. Didn’t give you the cheap pop out corny thrill that gives you a heart attack but definitely scared me in the aspect of the storyline and the end.

      “Damn I really wanted you…”

      Words I NEVER want to hear from him.

  14. I bet there is no twist in the movie. The twist is that you walked out and said, “That was a good movie by M. Night.”

    • that would be a good twist

  15. An 80-minute running time is a joke. Movies cost 12 bucks a person where I live, and more like 20 per with drink and a popcorn. And with this film we get an hour and 20 minutes for that? Pathetic. I’ll pass.

    • The hour and 20 minute movie time did NOT at ALL feel like a short movie whatsoever; DEVIL doesn’t waste any time nor include any boring exposition..it gets to the point and tells an intense tale, very well done.

  16. Watched this yesterday and it was pretty good

  17. “M. Night Shyamalan’s true talent has always been creative storytelling, not actual filmmaking”

    Amen brother. Im still trying to convince myself The last Airbender was good.

  18. Certainly a good movie and back to M. Night’s greatness. I am a big fan of his movies and didn’t feel ripped off at all after seeing the Village or Lady in the Water. I just went into those films with a pretty open mind and not expecting another Sixth Sense, like so many of his haters. The Sixth Sense wasn’t even my favorite… if that tells you how much I can appreciate his style. Way better than say Iron Man 2 or another film with Ashton Kutcher if you ask me. This film doesn’t have Tom Cruise or a million dollar budget and I can appreciate that way more. If you like most of his work, not withstanding his worse… The Happening, you will like this a lot. Very tense, creepy, and all around good story with no ” slap you like a b**** ” endings like one guy said. I’m guessing you would rather spend your money on a love story or fantasy tale, where the good guys always win and they dance down the yellow brick road. Sorry, not me or M. Night’s style. He is different than most hollywooders. Anyways, I recommend the Devil.

    Never saw the Last Airbender.

    My order of his work.

    The Sixth Sense
    The Devil
    The Lady in the Water
    The Village
    The Happening

  19. Please, give Shyamalan a break!! I don’t why people have been so harsh on critizing The last airbender, while Jame Cameron AVATAR, was really weird, this movie didn’t make any sense.

    Shyamalan twisted way of writing, is what makes him different from any other director.

    We love his movies (From The sixth sense to The last airbender)… He definitely a genious.

  20. Everything about the last Airbender was wrong. Everything that made the show so amazing was just missing. I mean, he didn’t even have names pronounced right. Why bother making the change? it was bound to piss people off, why even bother?

  21. God I juz seen dizz movie n it woz crap I didn’t understand it it made no sense wat a waste I hate mns wit hiz twists n turns boooooo

    • Because you’ve got ADD, smoke some weed.

      • Actually I agree with jeannette molina on that. I only watched the movie because of all the hype surrounding it (as per the norm with a M. Night film).

        I was hoping that the film would employ more special effects than his previous films, as he had recently recieved a lot of negaite feedback in the popular press and from the student community.

        Needless to say, it had the same long winded (mite as well have been mime) drawn out storylines as all his previous films.

        I realise not all films require special effects to make them good, but c’mon. Jeez…. it has got to the point where you know what is going to happen and exactly what you expect to see (in terms of special effects) zilch.

    • wow, I understand wanting to abbreviate things to save time or whatever but come on – “woz” (spelling it right would have taken the same amount of letters) “wit hiz”… If this reviewer thought this movie was bad, It might be just because it requires some actual thought. Thanks! I think I’ll check it out.

      Oh, and I am so sick of “film student” reviews. Rating a movie bad based on something they learned about camera angles or character development that day… its annoying. I’ll save the rest of that rant for another time though. OK off my soapbox. Time to watch “The devil”. I will return with a real review later!

  22. I think this review is too forgiving. The simple plot/premise is a great idea, but the lack of character development doesn’t allow the audience to really care about or connect with anybody in the elevator. Nobody cares when these people die and nobody cares when the devil is revealed. I really wanted to like this flick, but i feel it fell short. 3.5 stars???… more like 1.5-2 stars. Sorry Kofi.

    • I just wanted to say that your wrong and right about some things jremigio. I agree that nobody cared that the people died because they were all dirt bags and the audience wasn’t supposed to be connected to the people in the elevator,The character development was more for the lieutenant which gives a great one actually and makes you feel for the guy.I also agree with the plot which was very good.I give it 4 out of 5

      • Really?, 4 out of 5. Really?!! Did we watch the same film?

        How about 1 out of 5, the low score is for all the disapointment he has caused and all the time he has wasted in my life in going to see his films. In saying how bad this film was, nothing could be as bad as The Village.

        • I really liked the Village :)

  23. This is not a good movie. not that there aren’t decent bits, a few good scares and a bit of fun. I doesn’t bother me too much that the bulk of the idea is 70 years old. it annoyed me a little that the end was not properly supported as a fundamental objective for the film, but I’ve come to expect a lot of mediocrity over the years. the thing that really flushed the chain on this thing was Vargas’ character. its bad. he isn’t the best actor but thats not what i’m talking about. his entire character is awful! I don;’t know who wrote his character, it feels like it was added later to fill some holes and they thought all of 2 seconds about it. everything he said and did clanked. the writer of that character need to be fired and run out of town. we’re supposed to believe that if the Jelly goes down the devil’s in town?? The amazing thing is that so many people are agreeing with you about Vargas – take him out and you might have an acceptable movie. The things called Devil so the audience knows the devil turning up somewhere why do you need to explain everything? grrrr.

  24. this movie was a lot better than i even expected it to be.
    sixth sense sucked the village sucked unbreakable was boring i could not even watch it all the happening was horrible signs was one of the worst movies ever. Devil is so far the only good m night movie hes ever made.
    good story, nice twist, some pretty decent acting from new faces instead of washed up overpaid and overrated actors like gibson willis and wahlberg. better than pirahna3d(sucked)lol

    • I disagree with drew, Sixth sense was an awesome film, however The village and the Happening were nowhere near as good and devil looks about average from what i’ve seen.

    • You are obviously a low IQ moron. That is all I can gather from your comment.

      • That message was for Drew.

      • Booksage,

        Since you’re taking the “mental high ground” here, how about a little test: Can you READ?

        Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.

        It’s RIGHT above the comment box.


  25. I agree with Nick, aweful movie. The film starts off ok, usual mysterious crap with the scary music. Then you get to the lift part for the remaider of the film. What can I say… if you’ve ever seen a M. Night film before you know what to expect…. virtually no special effects, relies totally on your imagination, and finishes with an anti-climax of an ending. Just so you won’t have to watch it here’s what happens at the end.


    I still haven’t seen The Last Airbender, but if his track record is anythink to go buy I hold out little hope.

    • Just an update, I have now seen The Last Airbender… I loved it. I am now slightly confused about M. Night.

    • Oh mee gawd. Sumun wunts us to use our imaginatoonz! Burn thum, finish thum. We no wunt an imgntn. We wunt FX!! FXXXXXXXXXXX Man!

      … and we wonder why movies are worst each year that passes.

  26. The best movie of the year thus far. This film is a classic and yes it’s just a thrilling and twisting as signs and the sixth sense.

    I’m soooooo glad I saw it in theaters!

    • jessica can you imagine the devil refused his soul at the end.

  27. Another thing that makes this movie great is you do a lot of thinking. The graphics phase out with time. I’m glad they made it simple, it makes it scarier because you can portray the devil in the image you want to.

  28. i went to see this movie, prepared to be thrilled and scared, but found that I wasn’t. It was unclear who the narrator was and there was a story at the beginning that wasn’t finished. The constant blackouts left me bored and certainly unthrilled.
    After leaving the theatre, and thinking about it, some aspects were brilliant. The fact that the people in the elevator could hear the guards almost gave it a God like feeling.
    However, I wouldn’t recommend it. The simple idea and few characters in only a few settings made it seem like a poorly made low budget film.
    I must say, though, it did get me thinking.

  29. This movie was AMAZING!! It was sad at the endning though. I was shocked! This movie is sad, exciting, mysterious, and scary!!! It shocks and surprises you! I loved this movie!!! Best one of the whole year!!

    P.S. Sarah was pretty! And Geoffrey Arend and Logan Marshall-Green were really hot!! lolZ!!