What are you most afraid of? The stereotypical flesh eating zombie or a sadistic killer clown; a crazed mass murderer in a forgotten backwater town or something slightly more sinister... The Devil incarnate.
In a scenario designed to bring out your inner claustrophobe, the first of prolific writer M. Night Shyamalan's Night Chronicle series delivers once again his unique blend of fate verses free and supernatural punishment verses personal responsibility, making you question whether you will ever set foot in an elevator again.
On a seemingly normal day, five strangers enter a Philadelphia high rise elevator; A cocky mattress salesman (Geoffrey Arend), a racist old woman (Jenny O'Hara), a marine veteran turned mechanic with a chip on his shoulder (Logan Marshall-Green), a young trophy wife (Bojana Novakovic) and a claustrophobic temp security guard (Bokeem Woodbine).
20 floors up, they suddenly grind to a halt. Like any normal malfunctioning elevator situation, the monitoring security guards contact the building technician to investigate whilst attempting to calm and inform the trapped, however the two-way communication system is also malfunctioning.
Watching the monitors intently the guards notice the lights flickering and unexpectedly darkness falls. Without provocation, one of the trapped is attacked during the back-out. Left bleeding from an apparent bite mark, the groups' initial irritation turns to that of terror and the guards raise the alarm with local police.
Recovering from the trauma of his wife and child's callous hit-and-run death six month earlier, detective Bowden (Chris Messina) is in attendance within seconds. Already on scene dealing with what appears to be a seemingly unrelated homicide/suicide on the 35th floor, Bowden becomes suspicious as to whom he is helping on the inside.
Digging to find answers, Bowden discovers that contained within is an extortionist, a thief, a liar, a thug and a con artist. The escalating tension reaches a peak when the darkness falls again. As the lift lurches to light, the body count begins.
Perplexed as to why someone would choose a confined space, with no exit and four witnesses as their murder scene, Bowden can find no reasonable explanation and as the body count rises and the compounding tension reaches fever pitch, Bowden opens his mind to the highly superstitious security guards unreasonable answer; that one of their number is less human than they seem and the devil himself is in attendance.
Stylistically impressive the film begins with a striking upside down shot of Philadelphia harbor, however as the initial premise is introduced; that of a mother delivering a gruesome bedtime story about the devil and death, the subtle mood of discomfort leads into a predictable and trite conclusion.
Threatening, ominous and creepy, the Devil's main flaw is its lack ofsubstancal build-up. Overworked, underdeveloped, under defined and unrealized, audiences are relegated to the purgatory of boredom. The dramatically uniform style plays out as gimmicky goosebump-like missing link paying homage to a missing episode of twilight zone.
Although, the actors deliver strong performances; and even with an Australian amongst their number, they are helpless to save this flat movie. Messina's Bowden is the most vulnerable character, however as his character is never in any danger, viewer empathy is simply wasted.
The Verdict: As darkness and silence fall allowing our imaginations flex looking for that part of the mind that takes rational fears to irrational levels, I found myself bored. Wishing might against might I could put my hand into the screen and removed one of the glass shards for my own nefarious use; surely not the requited response Shyamalan would desire.
Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 10/12/2010