M. Night Shyamalan has not been very popular, at least not lately. His

name was solidly booed at this years San Diego Comic-Con during the showing of  the

“Devil” trailer. His Lady in the Water and The Village were not  well received by audi-

ences, compounded by die-hard fans of the original animated series, Avatar: The Last

Airbender who weren’t  exactly thrilled with his  live adaptation. It makes one wonder if

he apprehended this collective response and therefore gave the directing duties for Devil

to someone else.

As a born again Christian, I do believe in who the bible refers to as “the

prince of the power of the air”( Ephesians 2:2) and can appreciate those of other religions

who may or may not have a healthy belief in him too. Devil is a work that tries to rein-

force those beliefs with Shyamalan’s influence all over it ,despite his absence from the

director’s chair.

Sporting the obligatory twist prevalent in all of Shymalan’s tales, John

Erick Dowdle (Quarantine) has fashioned a taut character driven thriller that primarily

unfolds in a place where people barely socialize, let alone even look at one another. This

enables him to create a natural suspense that flows easily and is not forced.

Our story is set in Philadelphia (my home town) although Ontario and To-

ronto Canada double for it successfully, where five individuals from various walks of life

become trapped inside an elevator of an office high rise – and one of them is actually the

devil. There’s Bokeem Woodbine’s guard, a temp employee who follows procedures;

Jenny O’Hara’s elderly lady with an annoying tendency to complain a bit too much;

Bojana Novakovic balances this as our young woman who may be somewhat neurotic;

the salesman played by Geoffrey Arend, trying unsuccessfully to be calm and funny at the

same time; and Logan Marshall-Green’s mechanic, the only one that doesn’t seem to have

any issues.

When a sudden jolt freezes their conveyor between floors, it doesn’t  take

long for our diverse quintet to show signs of panic. And Dowdle, with Shymalan’s long

time collaborating cinematographer Tak Fujimoto, takes full advantage of the crisis by a

series of  lengthy, unexpected blackouts and keeping your eyes riveted to the screen until

the lights come back on again.

Thankfully, all the turmoil is not limited to a 4x6x7 metal box. Brian

Nelson’s nimble script provides almost as many scary moments on the outside as well as

inside. Right in the middle is Chris Messina’s pragmatic detective Bowden, trying to

piece together what’s happening, while being at odds with Jacob Vargas’s security guard

Ramirez, ostensibly religious, who believes there’s a lot more to this accident than meets

the eye.

The real fun in this scary movie of course, is  trying to figure out which of

our elevator group is Lucifer. Devil’s running time is less than 90 minutes, so the process

of elimination starts readily. As our reluctant prisoners begin dropping off, you still may

not be able to zero in on the father of lies. Like the devil himself, it will keep you in the

dark.

Devil is the first in a series of supernatural thrillers from Shymalan’s new

Night Chronicles production entity. His original ideas, other film makers(another appre-

hensive move because of comic-con?). As the old song goes, “This could be the start of

something big” and if he doesn’t  watch out, could possibly place him back in the good

graces of movie lovers at comic conventions. There’s no guarantee he won’t be booed

again but then “Bad things happen for a reason.” And some of those reasons may be

good.