So Devil came out, and while it wasn't directed by M. Night Shyamalan (Quarantine's John Erick Dowdle had that honor), it was his story idea, and it's part of his "Night Chronicles" series of horror movies. And while, overall, it wasn't a bad little horror flick (really little, like 80 minutes little), it did have a lot of Shyamalan-specific details that really identified him as the driving force behind the film and threatened to derail the whole proceedings.
1. Again With the Importance of "Stories"
The movie starts off with a narrator, later revealed to be a security guard, explaining that his grandmother used to tell him a story about how the devil would walk among us and try to get his claws in the people he wanted in Hell, and that his arrival would always be heralded by a suicide. First of all, what an awful grandmother. Second of all, after initially dismissing the guard's stories, the lead detective on the scene gets sufficiently weirded out that he asks the guard what would happen next in the story. Because stories have value.. We get it, Shyamalan. You told us this in Signs, The Village, Lady in the Water... stories are what makes the world go round. But when you're telling a story, constantly reminding us that it's a story kind of takes us out of the action a bit.
2. Satan's Scary YouTube Video
Remember how freaky it was in Signs, when they showed that video footage of the alien at the kid's birthday party? Well, now there's video evidence of the Devil. When the lights flicker in the elevator, a creepy human face is briefly seen on the security camera footage. Yes, it's a cheap horror-movie staple, especially since there's no reason for it other than to freak out the security guards, but when the security guards rewind the footage frame by frame, the face is still there. The devil clearly put it there, so he could have made it disappear and cause the guys to question their sanity, but no, he let himself be captured on digital film. In The Usual Suspects, Verbal says that the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist -- well, now there's video proof that he does.
3. Dead Wives Club
Another Signs similarity -- both main characters lost their wives in car accidents. The detective in Devil lost his son, too, and now that he's given up drinking he's looking to find the guy who hit and ran. Well, it turns out there was a reason he was sent this case, because the killer is in that elevator. It's yet more "there's a reason for everything, including my wife dying horribly on the side of the road" divine-providence (or, possibly, satanic providence) bullshit. "Oh, my wife needed to die so she could tell us how to defeat the aliens." "Oh, Satan sent me this case so I could catch my wife's killer." That's nice and all, but why not just give the dude his wife back?
4. The Anti-Philadelphia
We really have no problem with all of Shyamalan's movies being set in Philadelphia. It's a fun town! But the opening credits run over beautiful helicopter shots of the city's skyscrapers and bridges... and they're all upside-down. The footage is inverted, which gives it a very vertigo-inducing Inception quality, but damned if I know the reason for it. Is it supposed to signify the underworld? Because rushing up an elevator shaft doesn't have the same effect as plummeting down one. The footage is shown right-side-up at the end of the movie, so I think we're supposed to realize that the nightmare is over, but damn, I'd rather see Shyamalan try to make a movie about an upside-down Philadelphia.
5. The Goddamn Twist
It's a Shyamalan production -- it's gotta have a twist, right? Well, more or less. There are a lot of little red herrings dropped along the way, with a couple of surprising reveals towards the end of the movie, but it's really not much worse than the surprises thrown at you over the course of your average Saw installment. Faced with that kind of mediocrity, I'm kind of disappointed there wasn't a bigger twist, especially since I kept waiting for some kind of game-changer, right up until the end. Does that make me a masochist?
Did you see Devil? What did you think? Let us know below, then see the Shyamalan elevator movies that almost were!
Check out the biggest casting near-misses in Hollywood history.
Want to immediately access TWoP content no matter where you are online? Download the free TWoP toolbar for your web browser. Already have a customized toolbar? Then just add our free toolbar app to get updated on our content as soon it's published.