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Devil

With a poster proclaiming its story is from the ‘mind of M. Night Shyamalan’, it’s easy to become afraid of Devil for all the wrong reasons.  Shyamalan hasn’t the best of genre reputations as several directorial works have been unbearably awful.  Viewers can breathe a sigh of relief with Devil as he has only written its story.  Marketed as the first part of his ‘Night Chronicles Trilogy’, it’s a fairly decent effort in conjuring the psychological terror from which Shyamalan made his name with The Sixth Sense.
 

Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) is called to the scene of an apparent suicide.  Whilst investigating it, he hears of five people trapped in an elevator.  They include Vince (Geoffrey Arend) and Sarah (Bojana Novakovic).  Relying on each other to maintain their sanity while it’s being fixed, they discover evil is among them.  Burdened with their own personal demons, their shock at learning Satan himself is among them intensifies their battle for survival as he fiendishly throws some astounding surprises their way.
 

It’s ironic one of the few films he doesn’t direct is one of Shyamalan’s better ones.  Providing interest is its urban location as many horror films are usually set in isolated surrounds.   Whilst an elevator could be construed as its own prison, the five protagonist’s individual desperation compounds their sense of personal seclusion.   Like Satan’s wicked trickery, Devil’s deceptive narrative riff borrows heavily not from other similar movies but from Agatha Christie.  Based on ‘And Then There Were None’, there are plenty of red herrings to decipher with an ending much like the one from her masterly tome.
 

Adding to this enjoyable ‘whodunit’ type angle is a brisk pace allowing for the character’s traits to be efficiently bought to the surface.  Managing to make each a likely suspect for initiating such deadly games, the nicely generated suspense keeps events percolating with genuine tension.  There isn’t any gore to be found which heightens the menacing atmosphere as the script takes a more inventive route in crafting its scares. 
 

After a string of box office bombs, Devil manages to salvage some of Shyamalan’s standing.  Focussed and populated with characters you care about, maybe he should stick to writing instead of directing if he wants to receive more critical bouquets than unwanted brick-bats.
 

Rating out of 10:  7
 

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