The latest story from Shyamalan is a ‘Devil’ of a good time (Movie review)

It seems like I’m the last person who still gets excited about M. Night Shyamalan movies. But although movies from the auteur behind “Signs,” “The Village” and “The Happening” are screened to smaller audiences now, he still knows how to spin a good yarn and build suspense.

“Devil” is his second movie this year, but the first true “M. Night Shyamalan movie,” even though he wrote and directed “The Last Airbender” and he only contributed the story here (Brian Nelson wrote the screenplay and John Erick Dowdle directed). But it sure feels like Shyamalan contributed more than the jumping-off point; if nothing else, he was a major influence on “Devil’s” scribe and helmer.

“Devil” is suspense/horror storytelling boiled down to a basic core that would make Stephen King or Richard Matheson proud: Five strangers are trapped in an elevator, and they start being killed one by one.

We suspect all along that the Devil is behind it. One, the movie is called “Devil.” Two, one of the building’s security guards keeps saying that the Devil is doing it (this character also serves as an overly moralistic voiceover narrator on occasion). Three, the guard and other officials see a mysterious image in a frame of security footage that looks like the Devil.

But in addition to the simplistic children’s storytelling element, there are also old-fashioned red herrings, horror-scene set-ups and surprise revelations. “Devil” features the natural suspense that comes from meeting new people in a tense situation, and the actors are good at portraying the suspense — both the weirdness inside the elevator and the more procedural drama of the people trying to get them out. (The only two actors I recognized were the best bud from “(500) Days of Summer” and Caroline Dhavernas from “Wonderfalls”; she unfortunately has a rather small role outside the elevator).

Also, I loved the look of the movie, which takes place on an overcast day in the big city. And the soundtrack definitely feels Hitchcockian. I remember most of Shyamalan’s films for their mood and atmosphere more so than any specific moments (outside of the Big Twists in many of his films), and “Devil” (which I consider to be a Shyamalan film) is no exception.

This film features a slow, steady build rather than a thrill-ride. Some might be bored with that, but if you don’t need your story to be rushed, then “Devil” might just hold your attention, as it did mine.

Anyone else out there still like M. Night-style movies?