Like many movie goers, I was enthralled by the film The Sixth Sense. I admit, I originally had no real intention of seeing it, and when everybody I know pretty much ruined the twist ending, I decided to avoid begging my mother or father to take me and just wait for it to his video. Eventually, I grabbed it, and even with the ending ruined, the film was pretty good. This was the point that my interest in the work of M. Night Shyamalan began, though it was The Village that made it collapse pretty hard.
Despite this, it was his 2010 film Devil that re-sparked my curiosity. Of course, I wound up in the hospital at this point for a Multiple Sclerosis flare up and was whacked out of my mind on pain killers and steroids that made the hospital walls crawl and my bed to do jumping jacks with the man and the moon, so the concept of a film about a the devil in an elevator seemed plausable and highly enjoyable to me at the time. It also caused me to run various other bizarre film ideas through my head that I would ramble off to people with the tagline “Hey, if Shyamalan can do a movie about the devil in an elevator… why not this?” Some of my ideas, however, I doubt even he’d sign on to produce…
Eventually I came to my senses and remembered the film that ruined it all, and put this one on the back burner for a while. It wasn’t until much after its theatrical release, right next the end of its Redbox run, that I decided to bite the bullet and give it a spin. The whole premise seemed absolutely ridiculous, so at the very least I would get one hearty chuckle out of the thing. Of course, when I told some of my friends of this intention, they all laughed and wished me the best of luck with my journey straight into absurdity. Of course, anyone who knows me or spends five minutes on this site will know that I much prefer sitting through a train wreck than a blockbuster hit.
But, it’s with great surprise, even to this day that I tell you, in the end, Devil was actually an enjoyable experience, and one of my favorite Syamalan flicks. Devil took more of a simplistic approach to his typical “what a twist” writing style, and it was something I can appreciate, showing him growing more as a writer and not relying on such tactics. Then again, this is probably because he just came up with the story and Brian Nelson wrote the screen play. This wound up being more of a whodunnit style Crime movie with a hint of spirituality thrown in. There weren’t any aliens to be found, but a lot of the film had a presence I hadn’t felt since Signs, and I was immediately drawn into that atmosphere, though set in more of an urban setting than the rural farm terrain of that movie. But still, the concept of the devil himself in an elevator made me question exactly how this will make any sense, or even how it could possibly be done without making the entire audience piss themselves from laughing so hard.
When you really sit back and think about it, elevators can be a bit scary when you’re in there with strangers and the power goes out. You genuinely cannot see what’s going on. Considering this movie plays out like a spiritual version of Russian Roulette whenever the lights go out, it was almost impossible for me to not place myself in the film as a fly on the wall, experiencing everything the same way. And, really, that’s what kept my attention. Well, that and placing bets on who the next to go is. Honestly I didn’t care why, I disliked most of the characters in the film, and that was more the point than something to blame on the actors and actresses.
Sadly, it was pretty obvious who the Devil was in the group, and when the big reveal came I wasn’t too impressed. But, that Shyamalan twist reared its ugly little head towards the end not once, but twice, and in a very subtle manner that it didn’t even feel like an actual twist, but rather a common reveal of the killer, and the second thwarting him based solely on typical Christian rules he would have to adhere to. Much like how Signs is about rediscovery ones faith, this film was more about penance by admission to ones own guilt. While doing so seemed a large stretch, having the security officer whos family were the victims of his be there to hear it leading to the concept of God feeling mercy for a drunk murderer and not the others with crimes that seemed far less severe in comparison.
This really is the only time I had a problem. This signature left open a huge plot hole that bothers the hell out of me to this day. Why would God have chosen to save him as opposed to someone who hadn’t committed homicide? Well, you could argue that the guard had forgiven him long before he admits it, and the selfless sacrifice attempt plays into Little Nicky rules as far as entry into Heaven goes. This is something I tend to lean on like a crutch, because, really, this issue is the only thing that really casts this film into the darkness for me. It’s not a good excuse for a plot hole, but, I’m not religious in any way, even though I grew up in a Christian family and went to church and CCD classes every Sunday until too many tragic events made me question the faith, so the whole film is essentially one giant plot hole to me from the moment it starts, so why get so nitpicky over that and not the fact that apparently God and The Devil actually exist in the universe of this film that clearly has to be alternate one against my perception of reality?
And that’s about the time I realized that I needed to throw all logic and common sense out the window and appreciate the film for what it is. Devil is, by all means of Science and laws of reality, a flick that simply wouldn’t happen in real life (sorry, religious folk) unless perpetrated by a flesh and blood serial killer. This whole experience would be the same thing if Shyamalan decided he didn’t want The Devil, but instead opted to use Roberto from Futurama to do the killings. So why get so bent out of shape? Just look at it as a What If…? story set in another universe where these entities might possibly exist and take it from there.
Once I suspended all belief, I found a lot to really embrace about the film. The acting was all relatively good for such a wacky idea, especially considering at the time I didn’t really recognize most of the cast other than Geoffrey Arend from Super Troopers, as well as Chris Mesina from somewhere. I think it was from The Siege. The story itself was also rather solid, finding some viable excuses as to how the Devil was actually killing everyone and not really getting caught. But, given the roars and other sounds, you’d imagine he would be something a lot bigger than the elevator itself, which is a whole new issue I just talked my way into…
Oh well, that doesn’t change the fact that I still really liked this film, and a hell of a lot more than many would be willing to admit. I wonder just how different it would be if M. Night Shyamalan had composed the screenplay himself, and not just kept it to the story or premise. I just get the odd feeling I wouldn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much. This is one of those movies that everyone seems to be on the edge about, but one I definitely have no problem suggesting to anyone looking to see a movie as bizarre as this, and the fact that this was even greenlit in the modern film culture we have today speaks volumes to the fact that this absurd litle title had a lot more going on than anyone refuses to acknowledge, and it’s one reason I like this subtle underdog in Shyamalan’s career.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, this article inspired me. Afterall, that script of a haunted MRI machine isn’t going to write itself! Or is it? I smell a twist…