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Devil: A Throwback Horror Clinger
In one of cinema’s most ironic twists, Devil’s reason for existence turned out to be its own worst enemy. The blessing of M. Night Shyamalan, director of the brilliant The Sixth Sense and a whole bunch of other loathed films, puts Devil in the unfortunate position of having to overcome Shyamalan’s own baggage to earn viewers’ interest. This is a shame; as Devil is a truly gripping horror thriller free of Shyamalan’s usual off-putting pretences.
The premise is simple but quite effective: five sketchy individuals are trapped in an elevator, unaware that one of them may be the devil. There is the sleazy salesman who has screwed his fair share of innocent people out of their savings; a posh, good-looking lady that's also an unapologetic gold-digger; an unassuming old woman who is also a compulsive pocket thief; a brawny looking fellow with a criminal past, and last of all; a suspiciously coy man who has witnessed excessive brutality during his days in the military.
From this classical horror setup, Devil manages to deliver some interesting twists; keeping the mystery alive and present for the film’s entire 80 minutes, which fly by fast. The elevator scenes depict the claustrophobia of the situation well through cleaver camera angles, never exhausting the location’s confined space. However, Devil is most ingenious in its use of darkness as a means of generating fear, projecting pivotal scenes in the viewers’ imagination in their entirety– harrowing and unnerving.
Getting trapped with the Prince of Darkness is a horrific prospect in itself, but director Dowdle gives it a moody spin with his insular and bleak cinematography. There is a sense of vacancy in Devil’s open landscape scenery that contrasts with the confined setting of the elevator. Devil’s cast of unfamiliar actors add to the film’s mystique while delivering competent performances that ground the film’s sense of foreboding and hopelessness.
Devil’s religious themes are heavy-handed and the film often hammers home its point too blatantly. However, it’s not uncharacteristic or out of place for a film that carries such a bold title.
Unlike other horror affairs that opt for gore and blood to turn your stomach, Devil never feels exploitive or nihilistically ambivalent; if anything, the film leaves you with a renewed sense of hope.
Following in the footsteps of the 2014 teen- tear-jerker, The Fault in Our Stars, R.J Cutler’s onscreen adaptation of yet another best-selling young-adult novel explores the perils of young love in the terribly formulaic and melodramatic, If I Stay.
The story is centred on Mia (Moretz); a shy high-school junior who dreams of one day becoming a great concert cellist. Her super-cool, rock-loving parents, Kat (Enos) and Denny (Leonard), are very supportive of her dreams; however, Mia – who constantly doubts her own talent – is not so sure that she will be able to make the cut when she auditions for the Julliard School of Music in New York.
As Mia awaits the news that will determine her future, her relationship with Adam (Blackley), the lead singer of a local rock band, is not doing so well, as his career and schedule begins to take him away from the relationship. Uncertain what her future holds, Mia’s world is soon turned upside down when she and her family are involved in a horrifying car accident that leaves both her parents dead, her younger brother Teddy (Davies) fighting for his life and Mia in a coma.
Stuck in between the two worlds, Mia begins to undergo a lengthy out-of-body experience and soon finds herself examining and questioning her entire life – through a series of flashbacks – and quickly comes to the realisation that it is up to her whether to let go and walk towards the light – literally – or wake up and deal with the fact that her life, as she knew it, will be forever changed.
Scripted by Shauna Cross, If I Stay does very little to break away from the usual patterns of young-adult novel adaptations and once again lends its entire focus on the workings of a romance between two young teens under the burdens of life and big decisions. Weighty subjects are thrown around, but never fully explored and the gaps in the logic – mostly to do with the supernatural part of the tale – are vast and, frankly, a little baffling.
Nevertheless, Moretz proves to be a reliable and capable lead, though the chemistry shared between her and Blackley doesn’t really resonate. As her extra-hip parents, Enos and Leonard, came off as a little forced – and a little hard to take seriously – while Keach, playing Mia’s loving grandfather, is the only one who brings a bit of sincerity to his role.
Told mostly through flashbacks, If I Stay is paced well and there is certain lightness to its step. However, it’s all a little bit too cutesy to take seriously.
Steering clear of the found-footage craze, Deliver Us From Evil - inspired by the real-life events of retired NYPD investigator-turned demonologist, Ralph Sarchie – strikes the right type of mood and benefits from a group of dedicated actors who bring this otherwise predictable and conventional story to life.
Set in New York City, Deliver Us From Evil is centred around NYPD Sgt. Ralph Sarchie (Bana); a dedicated man of the law who is known for his acute radar for bad vibes. Appointed to a special division, Sarchie spends most of his days away from home – away from wife, Jen (Munn), and daughter, Christina (Wilson) – and spends his time patrolling some of the roughest parts of the City, along with his knife-loving partner, Butler (McHale).
His sixth-sense for the supernatural soon leads them to a string of domestic abuse cases, in which children are involved in each. None of it makes sense, but Sarchie and Butler soon discover that all of the cases are linked to three recently dishonoured marines - Jimmy (Coy), Mick Santino (Harris) and Lt. Griggs (Johnsen) - who have just returned from Iraq.
Soon, Sarchie befriends mysterious Catholic priest, Mendoza (Ramirez); a booze-loving Christian who has spent his life chasing demons and performing exorcisms. Mendoza believes there’s something bigger at play. As a non-believer, Sarchie has a hard-time buying into the premise, but his mind soon starts to change when he pairs up with Mendoza in order to find and unlock the source of the mystery before further evil can spread.
It’s always refreshing to see a horror film free of the found-footage approach. Scott Derrickson – see The Exorcism of Emily Rose – manages to do just fine without the overly-used tactic and creates a satisfyingly eerie and inviting atmosphere.
But while there’s plenty of blood and gore, the scares are surprisingly few and far between. Additionally, the writing, which tries hard to build a strong case behind its demonic mythology, is relatively simple - even though it tries its best to come across as intricate and complex.
Luckily, Bana is there to pick up the pieces as the persuasive and relatively compelling cop who, despite his strong denial of demons and evil spirits, is eventually forced to look at the world with a new set of eyes. As Sarchie’s loyal sidekick, McHale is the source of the movie’s subtle comic relief while Mendoza shines as the eccentric priest.
All things considered, Deliver Us From Evil is a satisfying horror. The scare-o-meter is relatively low but that doesn’t mean the experience is any less frightening.