I saw Devil today. Not because I’m a masochist and wanted to torture myself with the latest Shymalan self-strokefest. I had heard some decent reviews from people I like, and thought I should give it a try. Plus, I didn’t hate John Erick Dowdle’s previous movie, Quarantine. Yes, I know the horror nerds hate Quarantine because it’s a remake of the Spanish movie Rec.
Normally I would agree, because I’m not always fond of remakes (especially when the original is only a couple years old), but I had never heard of Rec, and Quarantine had Jennifer Carpenter in it (Louisville represent!!) who’s cuter than a bag of kittens. When I finally saw Rec, I realized that Quarantine was a nearly shot-for-shot remake with the only difference being that it was in English. Yes children, I recommend seeing the original Spanish version first (I was in Barcelona when Rec 2 came out, but didn’t get a chance to see it). But but for those Americans that are functionally illiterate, go ahead and check out Quarantine.
Back to Devil. When I first saw the trailer, the audience’s reaction to seeing Shymalan’s name was priceless (I guess not totally priceless since I spent about $10 on a ticket). We now have a Pavlovian response to his name. Shymalan has become synonymous with unearned ego-mania. He’s proven to be a one-trick pony with more failures than success. Yet studios still give him ass-loads of money to make his next ponderous self-absorbed P.O.S. I’ll give him that 6th Sense was entertaining enough the first time around, but it has no re-watchability. Even with a 2nd viewing, you see that the filmmaking isn’t that good (even if Tak Fujimoto is your D.P.) Which brings me back to Devil. Tak shot this one, and it looks pretty good (though maybe a few too many closeups for my taste, but I’ll cut ’em some slack since it mostly took place in an elevator).
We meet some familiar faces, like the snozzeberries dude from Super Troopers. Hot gypsy girl from Drag Me To Hell. Bokeem Woodbine from (ironically) The Elevator. Character actor Jenny O’Hara (who I’ve been watching since the 70’s on shows like Barney Miller). And then there’s some dude I never heard of cuz he was on a bunch of shows I don’t watch. The standout actor was the cop played by Chris Messina, who I’ve also never seen before. I thought he was pretty good.
But what about the movie Uncle Curmy?
Keep your shirt on, I was just comin’ to that. We got 5 people trapped in an elevator and one of them might be…..THE DEVIL!….cue creepy music. To set everything up (because Americans need everything spelled out for them), we have our token religious expert (which is usually a minority or inbred redneck) school us on what the Devil likes to do. In this case, we have a Hispanic security guard giving all the demonology lore he learned from his mother. Why is the religious person always someone with an accent (be it foreign or Southern drawl). We have plenty Midwest or Northern yahoos who believe the Devil walks among us and hides our car keys.
I guess the main thing you wanna know is is this an entertaining 80 minutes? Is there suspense? Are there real scares? Hmmm. Well, I certainly didn’t feel any sense of dread or terror. The only suspense is waiting for the next loud music sting. That’s what counts for scary now. A loud noise. Sure, the loud noises and shock have always been part of scary movies, going all the way back to the original *Nosferatu. I never liked loud noises, so my sense of suspense at many of these modern horror movies comes from the fact that I’m waiting for my ears to be assaulted. I should care about these characters, and then maybe I’ll be worried about what happens next. Instead, I’m presented with 5 people I’m not supposed to really give a rats ass about. In fact, I’m rooting for the Devil on this one.
Not to give anything away (close your eyes if you’re worried something might get spoiled), but if the Devil’s aim is to do bad things to the people inside the elevator, why are people outside the elevator being affected? Couldn’t the Devil haven’t gotten to each one of them at a Starbucks or Chick-fil-A? It’s just highly inefficient. You’d think that after so many years of practicing evil (what with the Spanish Inquisition, Nazis, and Enron) that the Devil would’ve perfected his game (you can open your eyes now).
Is Devil worth seeing? I guess if you’re bored, and have got 80 minutes to spare (not counting 10 minutes of trailers), there’s worse times to be had at your local googleplex (like anything directed by M. Night Shymalan). But if you want to be really scared, look elsewhere. Try the Korean movie A Tale of Two Sisters. I watched that move through my fingers (my big, muscley, macho fingers). Or Hell, if you need English, check out David Lynch films. He doesn’t make horror pics, but that dude can scare me in the daytime.
*for anyone who didn’t get I was making a funny since Nosferatu is a silent movie, this site isn’t for you.