DVD Review: Devil (2010)

Chris Messina is a good actor.

He recently came to my attention in the lackluster Humbolt County, with a standout performance, and then again in the charming indie film, Away We Go, (a smaller role for him but one that left an impression in my mind). He also reminds me of this guy:

 They look so much alike to me.

Chris Messina, like Nuno, has a magnetic quality about him. He comes off as someone who would listen equally to a friend or stranger talk about his or her problems and not make judgment. If anything he would say something both practical and profound and then go on his merry way. Chris Messina that is, not Nuno.
Nuno is a dick!
 Anyway, Nuno stars in this movie, un-creatively entitled Devil. It’s about five horrible strangers, one of whom may be the devil himself, that get stuck in an elevator. It’s like the MTV’s Real World…except in an elevator.
And like every other show on MTV, we’re treated to some wonderful stereotypes that should be quite familiar to anyone who’s watched a movie in the last 20 years. There’s the brooding white guy anti-hero. The black thug security guard (played, not surprisingly, by Bokeem “never-the-lawyer” Woodbine), the awkward-yet-obnoxious sleazeball, the cute tart with way too much baggage for a 25 year old, the mouthy old bitch, and as a bonus we get the Hispanic catholic security guard who regales us with a goofy story about the devil that his grandmother told him as a child.

Basically, the devil comes to earth in human form to test people before bringing them to hell. He will always have an audience because the test is for those who are watching, as well as for those being tested. Oh and for some reason a suicide is a sign for his arrival.

Needless to say, this little tale is idiotic. The concept is so forced; the rules are so precise, that it’s obviously a set-up and it takes you out of the film immediately, thus failing miserably in comparison to similar satanic films like the Devil’s Advocate and The Prophecy (it would be unfair to compare it to the “sin-ematic” trinity; Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, and Nuno’s personal favorite, The Exorcist.).

Now, this bit of folklore is being called a “Devil’s Meeting” which, to be honest, just sounds like a way to market the film. There’s no subtlety or poignancy to the test like in Ingmar Bergman’s medieval classic, The Seventh Seal. And I realize I just said I wouldn’t compare it to films like The Exorcist but then I go ahead and bring up The Seventh Seal. But that’s because I’m the writer and I can do whatever I want. Who cares if I insult your intelligence? You’re reading this because you have nothing better to do, so whatever, why do I have to care about my audience? Nuno wouldn’t, and neither did the guys who made this film.

I mean it’s so easy to make up a story about the Devil:

The Devil was at the grocery store looking for water chestnuts, bean sprouts and some other things. When he finds all the ingredients he’s going to make a delicious stir-fry…and then KILL YOU!!!

The Devil loves to party and is both the Flip-cup and Beer Pong champ in 6 out of the 7 levels of Hell. He forfeited the game due to lateness, in the 5th level, cause he was too busy trying to KILL YOU!!!

See, how easy that is? I don’t have to refer to thousands of years of history and belief systems. I could just make one up. Forget research for believability’s sake. Forget other cultures. Forget that there’s a whole world out there to conquer. The Devil is going to deal with these five American clich├ęs…in this tiny elevator.

It’s just absurd. They could’ve had the same story and made up their own mythology; they could’ve used some other adversary and it would’ve worked better. I mean, the Devil is the heavy hitter, why would he care about these stock characters, they’re not even likable.

As B-movie as it sounds, "Hellevator" would’ve been a better title and would’ve set the tone of the film more appropriately. Nuno agrees.
Anyway, the tension rises as the strangers get mysteriously killed one-by-one in increasingly, improbable ways. And yet despite all the death, they stay in the elevator, leaving Nuno…I mean…Chris to be the voice of reason as he monitors them through the hellevator’s security camera, and instructs them like they were lab monkeys in mind control experiments.

M. Night Shamalmiaan, who produced the film, came up with story as part of a trilogy called the Night Chronicles. Really, M.? You couldn’t just make an anthology film like the Creepshow? You actually have to make three bad movies instead of just one? You have to name the trilogy after yourself?

Sorry, but I hate the whole pre-planned trilogy thing, unless it’s the Lord of the Rings…and even then, they should’ve taken a break before the third one.

It’s unfortunate that M. Night Shlamayannan, who I will still argue is a very talented person, can’t finish a good movie these days. I say finish because in all his movies there are some really nice ideas and a lot of amazing potential. He never comes up with an idea without a deeper meaning behind it. Which is nice considering we don’t get much depth in Hollywood movies these days, especially of the horror persuasion. But even if you come up with the most original and unique concept ever written, the film still has to be good. The story still has to work, and this did not. There were too many plot holes and that’s the risk you run when you over explain something.

I know, I know; all he did was produce a movie based on an idea. It’s a little unfair that I’m still blaming him, even when he didn’t direct or write it. But I asked Nuno what he thought and he said, “Fuck that dude.”

Now, there is an underlying theme in Devil, which I won’t spoil for you; and to be honest, it is something that really spoke to me. But by the time I got to the ever present Shoolimonn twist I ended up scratching my head wondering was anything I saw really necessary to get the point.

I think M. Night Shylomuninum should watch the film, Monsters, to remember how to convey a resonating message through a genre film; to really touch someone on an emotional level. He did it before, he can do it again.

Also, he should come up with an alter ego, and not because I can’t pronounce his name, but because it would give him the freedom to make a movie where he wasn’t so pigeonholed by his own notoriety. No one would expect the twist, nor would he be expected to produce one.

Because, really, who needs a twist?

I’m not sure if Nuno watched the movie but I imagine that he won’t be pleased that they used his likeness...and no, I don’t mean the nice and friendly Chris Messina…but rather that of the devil HIMSELF!!!

Nuno, the "Anti-Chris" and Caligula, Emperor of Rome. 7th Level Beer Pong Champs, 2010

See? Twists are overrated.

5 out of 10 inept maintenance men.

Recommendation: Watch when it becomes available on basic cable when you're bed-ridden with the flu.

'til next time,

Thomas Drew