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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.
If you’ve enjoyed the type of quirkiness in 2009’s Coraline or the creepy-goofiness of 2012’s ParaNorman, then The Boxtrolls – the latest stop-motion creation and an adaptation of Alan Snow’s Here Be Monsters! novel – might be right up your alley.
Directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi, The Boxtrolls is set in a Victorian-like city of Cheesebridge. The residents, through scary and gruesome fables, believe there are deadly Boxtrolls living underneath their streets.
When a human boy goes missing, it is believed that the scary monsters from down-under have eaten him. Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Kingsley) – a sneaky pest exterminator – offers to go in and eradicate the threat himself, in the hope of gaining access to the elite society known as White Hats. However, the missing boy in question is in fact an orphan named Eggs (Hempstead-Wright), who has been living with the the so-called monsters ever since he was two years old and, just like them, he now spends most of his time collecting recycled trash and building various devices and gadgets out of them.
Luckily, Eggs and his faithful buddies are more than capable of staying out of trouble and far away from Archibald’s menacing grip; that is until, Eggs – a boy who is part-human and part-Boxtroll – lays his eyes on beautiful young human girl, Winnie Portley-Rind (Fanning), and instantly falls for her. However, Eggs begins to learn the hard way that his infatuation with her is going to cause him problems.
The latest production to come out of Laika studios – a renowned stop-motion animation company specialising in feature films – is another unique and quirky addition to the company’s filmography. Dark, whimsical and delightfully unconventional, The Boxtrolls sings to its own tune and succeeds in creating an original setting and a story that stays unique to Disney and Pixar. The time and effort that went into creating the world of Cheesebridge – and all of its peculiar, British-speaking residents – is evident.
Led by Game of Thrones’ Hempstead-Wright – better known as Bran Stark of Winterfell – the performances were equally solid and although Eggs could have had a little bit more spring to his step, it was Kingsley – as the deliciously evil exterminator – who steals the show along with Frost, Ayoade and Morgan, who provide the voices for Archibald’s thugs.
The Boxtrolls; it’s by no means groundbreaking, but it is an incredibly fun and unusual watch.
Sinking the already-shaky horror-genre deeper into further oblivion, Ouija – based on a popular spirit-summoning board-game from the 1890’s – is, unfortunately, nothing to get excited about.
Written and directed by Stiles White – along with the penning support of Juliet Snowden – the story is centred on best friends, Laine (Cooke) and Debbie (Henning), who, ever since they were young girls, loved to indulge in a childish and seemingly harmless play using the Ouija board.
Several years later, however, Laine is shocked to learn that Debbie has killed herself and even more surprised to learn that – after visiting her home – that there is evidence of Debbie playing with the Ouija board all by herself; a big no-no in the world of spirits and magic. In order to get to resolve the mystery surrounding her death, Laine calls upon the help of her sister, Sarah (Coto), friend, Trevor, (Kagasoff) and Debbie’s boyfriend, Pete (Smith), to play with the Ouija board and summon Debbie’s spirit.
However, things turn upside down when they accidentally end up summoning an evil spirit who, unlike Debbie, wishes to spread harm upon the group. Now, Laine, who brought everyone into this mess in the first place, needs to find a way to shut the portal - between earth and the life beyond - before it’s too late.
Although the idea of turning a popular board-game into a movie doesn’t sound all that ridiculous and the material seems generally interesting, there just isn’t enough imagination or character in Ouija to make it worthwhile. Lacking depth and character, the film relies a little bit too much on the jump-scare tactic and the lack of suspense and tension only adds to its weak attempt to create a frightening horror experience.
Adding salt to the wound, the characters are just as weak thanks to the poorly-scripted material. Cooke leads the way as the only character of note and the relatively new face won’t have harmed her future prospects. The rest of the cast, unfortunately, simply don’t register and ultimately fail to convey a single genuine emotion.
Ouija is tedious, unimaginative and seemingly uninterested in elaborating and expanding on its own source material.