M. Night Shyamalan, I’m so disappointed in you! Yes, yes, I know you didn’t direct this film and are only responsible for the story and as a producer, but it’s just terrible and I need someone to blame for that 80 minutes I’ll never get back. (At least it was short!) And let’s face it, you’ve gone from the highest highs to the lowest lows in the last 10 years. So let’s take a brief look at your filmography and then we’ll get back to this terrible, terrible film.
In 1999, Shyamalan hit fame with a sleeper hit called ‘A Sixth Sense’. I can’t imagine there is anyone reading this that hasn’t seen that film, but if there is, stop reading and go watch it immediately. It’s quite frankly one of the best films ever made, even on repeat viewing. I still vividly remember sitting in the theater frozen solid after it was over. Fantastic! (Many think this is Shyamalan’s first film, and it’s not, but it was certainly his star-making film). In 2000 Shyamalan followed that up with ’Unbreakable’, also starring Bruce Willis. That film met with mixed reviews and some harsh criticism because it was being compared to ‘The Sixth Sense’. Well, I don’t care, I still think it’s genius. And so does Shyamalan. He still talks about doing a sequel. (And by the way, 'Unbreakable' is being shown as a special 10th Anniversary tribute at the Prince theater on Thursday 10/21 at 7:20 PM as part of the upcoming Philadelphia Film Festival. M. Night himself is confirmed to attend, most likely for a discussion afterwards. I will surely be there as well. Will you?) OK, after ‘Unbreakable’ came ‘Signs’ with Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix. Again, it was received with mixed reviews. My personal feeling is that it started very strong but ended weak. However, even in his misses no one does suspense like M. Night Shyamalan. No one. In the early 2000’s Shyamalan was oft referred to as the new ‘Master of Suspense’, taking the title from Alfred Hitchcock. Well, as much as I love Hitchcock, I comfortably concede the title to Mr. Shyamalan. Next up was ‘The Village’. Some mocked it, but I absolutely loved it. And I’m right on that one. Even if it isn’t perfect it’s still light years better than most of the crap that is released each year. ‘Lady in the Water’ followed and that’s where I started to have some issues. In retrospect it’s not great, but it is original, and it stars Paul Giamatti and that’s always good. So I’m very ok with it. In 2008 Shyamalan released ‘The Happening’. As usual I was super-excited to see it, but like ‘Signs’ I thought it started strong but ended weak. And the performances from Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel were particularly bad. Is that Shyamalan’s fault? I don’t know, but I suspect it is since I’ve seen them do much better. But it’s at least suspenseful, if not satisfying. Earlier this year, Shyamalan met with his worst reviews to date for ‘The Last Airbender’. I see almost everything, and even I decided to pass on that one based on word of mouth alone. It has a 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes from critics. That’s bad. Nevertheless maybe one day I’ll waste a few hours just to be sure. Critics have been wrong before. And that brings us to ‘Devil’. Oh you poor ‘Devil’.
'Devil' is the first of a line of supernatural thrillers that will be produced by Shyamalan under the title of 'The Night Chronicles'. When I first heard the concept of ‘Devil’ I couldn’t have been more excited. A group of people are trapped in an elevator and one of them may or may not be the Devil. That is so Shyamalan. But, while the concept is great, and I do like claustrophobic films (see my reviews for ‘Buried’, ‘127 Hours’, and ’12 Angry Men’) this film is a train wreck. Everything about it is amateur, cheesy, and predictable. It’s like a bad supernatural version of an Agatha Christie novel, with suspects dying one by one. Whoever’s left must be the Devil, yes? By the end I really didn’t care. The cast is terrible. The characters are laughable and stereotypical. And us Philadelphians can usually at least get excited that Shyamalan’s movies are all filmed in Philly, but while this one is set in Philly, it wasn’t actually filmed here. Lame! The corporate high rise which I struggled to identify (I eventually figured out because it’s not actually filmed in Philadelphia) is shown many times with the bold street number 333 displayed. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I do know that 333 is half of 666. Get it? Sly dogs.
I always say, studios should stop remaking good films and start remaking the bad ones. If anyone from a studio is reading this, can you PLEASE remake this film, but much, much better?
Grade: D (Not an F only because of the great concept.)