Making the Grades
Audiences get a good dose of gore in M. Night Shyamalan’s movie Devil. They’re also served a strong moral message about the consequence of sin and the power of forgiveness—odd themes for a blood-splattered horror film where five seemingly random people end up together in a stalled elevator.
If Philadelphia still prides itself on being the City of Brotherly Love, it’s not evident among this crabby group of confined companions. Even before introducing themselves, the salesman (Geoffrey Arend), security guard (Bokeem Woodbine), young wife (Bojana Novakovic), mechanic (Logan Marshall-Green) and elderly woman (Jenny O’Hara) are snapping at one another, grumbling about the muzak and cussing the poor soul who last inspected the elevator.
From their vantage point in the security surveillance area, Officers Lustig (Matt Craven) and Ramirez (Jacob Vargas) try to calm the stranded passengers. However before they can get the group to exchange pleasantries, one of the five is dead on the floor, impaled by a piece of broken mirror. The sudden change in events forces the officers to call in backup from the Philadelphia Police Department.
Although Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) can’t hear what is going on inside the stuck cubicle, he can talk to the riders. And more than once he barks out instructions for the increasingly suspicious human beings to move away from one another. Yet even separation doesn’t keep the individuals in the lift from dying off one by one when the lights go out. Unfortunately, none of the deaths are pleasant and almost all of them produce great quantities of blood that gets smeared around the walls and on the hands of the survivors. Along with the trapped riders, unlucky characters outside the death trap also fall prey to an evil force.
Relying on a darkened screen and sounds of slaughter to help create suspense, the film offers some jump scenes and tension, but is too often overwhelmed by gruesome and graphic depictions of corpses and dying victims.
As the characters’ past lives come to light, it’s easy to say they’ve brought their fate on themselves. Still, this group gets more than their comeuppance when they share a lift with a devilish companion.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Devil.
How does the director use limited space to increase the tension among the characters in this story? Would you feel claustrophobic in a similar situation?
What can we learn about a person during stressful situations? Is his or her true character more likely to come out? Why or why not?