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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.
First, it’s important to establish that we cannot place the blame in its entirety on Ramez Galal for his sadistic show. A big part of the blame should fall on us, the viewers, who eagerly wait for pranks and spike the show’s ratings, even reaching the point where café owners will blast these shows on large TVs to attract customers. It’s time to admit that there’s a sadist in all of us.
The premise of the show is a guest will come in to film an episode about the World Cup on a zodiac boat out at sea. The boat malfunctions, one of the presenters dives in to see what’s wrong, and the events quickly escalate to the boat sinking with the guest and a fake shark attack.
In the episode with Rania Mahmoud Yassin and Mohamed Riad, it’s interesting to point out that the boat didn’t sink entirely, and Rania kept a firm clutch on her sunglasses in a situation where any normal person would’ve let go of his/her belongings in exchange for safety. We ignored these points at first, but after several mentions on TV and by other viewers, we couldn’t help but wonder.
The show comes with a lot of legal issues this year, of which, a case that Athar El Hakim filed against Galal, banning her episode from airing, under the pretence that the prank extremely frightened her. The truth behind that is in question, after a video of her discussing her pay for the episode was leaked. Other legal issues concerning the show include damage to marine life from planting metal poles to support the hidden cameras.
Because nothing is black and white, it’s important to admit Galal’s sense of humour and experience, especially when it’s imitated by an artist like Mohamed Fouad in his show “Fo’sh Fil Mo’askar”, a stale and completely void of humour prank show.
We have to admit, we were impressed by the shark boat Galal uses to rescue the guests. He is a smart actor who was able to establish himself within Ramadan TV and create shows that people wait for year to year.
Australian-born filmmaker, James Wan – of Saw and Insidious fame – is back, painting his latest horror-project with a truly unnerving atmosphere. Carried with an air of simplicity and austerity, this latest supernatural, haunted-house tale struts on relatively familiar ground, but still has the desired effect.
Set in the early 70’s and supposedly based on actual events, The Conjuring’s focus lies with two paranormal investigators, Ed Warren (Wilson) and wife Lorraine (Farmiga). The spiritual couple have devoted their lives to investigating a variety of supernatural incidents. Regularly holding seminars across the country, Ed and Lorraine are keen to offer insight and knowledge into the paranormal world.
The duo is soon called upon for help by the Perron family as things go from bad to worse in their old, countryside farmhouse in Rhode Island. Ever since moving in, the family of seven – mother Carolyn (Taylor), father Roger (Livingstone) and their five daughters – have experienced spooky, inexplicable happenings around the house. Believing in logical explanations, the family’s scepticism is soon silenced when they discover that whatever has latched onto their new home is evil beyond their imagination and unwilling to let go.
Paced beautifully, The Conjuring’s strongpoint lies with its electrifying and chilling atmosphere which is heavily influenced by the horror films of the 70’s; Wan keeps everything from the movie’s colouring to the costume design exceptionally authentic.
Contributing to the film’s realism is the superb cast; Taylor, one of the most underrated actresses of today, comes out as the shining star of the film. Her commitment to the role is undeniable and she manages to dish-up a number of incredibly unsettling scenes. Farmiga is equally as captivating, as is Wilson; the duo skilfully captures the essence of a supernatural-seeking couple. Unfortunately for Livingston – better known as ‘Burger’ from Sex and the City – feels like the oddball of the group. All five children play on the innocence of their characters nicely, which was of course beneficial to the spook-factor.
While it may not be the horror-masterpiece that the hype suggested, The Conjuring still manages to ignite and carry perfect pacing and atmosphere. Extremely moody and awfully chilling, The Conjuring unleashes old-fashioned scares with effortless style; a quality lacking in the majority of horror films released over 2013.