A narrator informs us about a childhood spook story, based in the modern world, in which the Devil walks among us, gathering souls to take but doing so according to an exacting plan. You’ve heard it before: Everything happens for a reason. And like all such tales, there is a moral lesson, a choice that must be made that will doom or save the souls of those parties intimately involved in the grand scheme.
So, in a topsy-turvy world (set in producer M. Night Shyamalan’s homebase of Philadelphia), Devil brings together an elevator of lost souls and a troubled cop (Chris Messina) on the outside attempting to lead them out safely and lets all hell break loose.
Coming from a filmmaker caught in a horrific slump, a film like Devil, which bears all of the slow-building hallmarks of Shyamalan’s brand despite the fact that it seems intent on acknowledging that he’s definitely not at the helm this time, is a supremely risky endeavor — a morality play or a humanist horror story for an audience that smells blood. Yet Shyamalan pulls off a neat and quite surprising trick here, mimicking the best of the Saw franchise (the preachy tension) without succumbing to the torture porn thrills of snapping traps and raw gaping wounds.
Devil actually seeks to redeem not only its producer/creator but also a genre and its audience from the bowels of the bloody pit. It’s a tough climb, but by the end purgatory is in sight and maybe that’s a far greater blessing than any of us deserve. Grade: C
Opens Sept. 17. Check out theaters and show times, see the trailer and get theater details here.