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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.
As far as remakes are concerned, Paul Feig’s reboot of the 1984 supernatural comedy classic, Ghostbusters, is one of the better ones out there. Arriving twenty-seven years after the release of the first sequel, the Bridesmaids director has been given the honours of reintroducing the story to the modern audiences of today. The result? An entertaining and an admittedly funny reboot which, although nowhere near as spunky as the original, still has its own charms to lean back on.
The story begins with Dr. Erin Gilbert (Wiig); a respected physics professor who is only days away from receiving tenure at the Colombia University. However, she is soon pulled back into her previous life as a paranormal investigator when her old friend Aby Yates (McCarthy), who has decided to re-publish the book about ghosts they wrote together many years ago without her permission, returns to her life.
Worried what the release of the book might do to her academic career, Erin decides to confront Abby. However, she soon finds herself joining her old friend - and Abby’s new research partner, Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon) - on a paranormal investigation at a reportedly haunted-house, during which they experience their first ghost-sighting.
Unfortunately, their encounter is labelled as a publicity stunt, forcing the three ladies - who soon welcome MTA employee, Patty Tolan (Jones) into their team - to create a plan of capturing ghosts as proof they exist. Meanwhile, creepy hotel janitor, Rowan (Casey) has been busy planting devices around NYC with the intention of opening the portal between the living and the dead.
Those who were not exactly on board with the idea of the all-female remake might not be completely taken in by Paul Feig’s latest attempt of bringing a modern twist to the beloved ghost-chasing franchise. However, the story’s amusing and refreshing stance, as well as its energetic vibe and slick special effects, are, overall, strong – the sum of its parts are, at least.
Stepping in for an all-male lead cast are four undeniably funny female comedians who show the willingness and the confidence in carrying the movie. Offering plenty of laughs and ghost-ass-kicking skills, McCarthy - delivering a pleasantly reserved performance - and Wiig are the strongest of the bunch with Jones and McKinnon falling as a close second. Unfortunately though, pointless cameos from the original cast never really resonate and actually distract and Casey’s villain is not as, let’s say, villainous as the story demanded him to be. In addition, the running gag on Hemsworth’s version of a dumb-blonde secretary is funny but, wears out thin pretty early on.
Nevertheless, Ghostbusters still manages to deliver. Embracing the spirit of the original whilst playing with its own modern bearings, the story serves to be a solid and thoroughly enjoyable take Ivan Reitman’s supernatural classic that even most of its hardcore haters might find hard not to love.
Failing to develop its concept, writer-director James DeMonaco’s final chapter in the horror series, The Purge, the franchise has reached its final destination with a damp squib.
Set in year 2025, it’s once again time for the annual Purge; a government-sanctioned twelve hour period where anything, including murder, is allowed. Designed on the theory of keeping crime down for the rest of the year by letting people let loose, the New Founding Fathers of America - led by Caleb Warrens (Barry) - are big supporters of the occasion and look forward to it every year. However, Senator Charlene ‘Charlie’ Roan (Mitchell) is not exactly on board with the idea and having lost her entire family to the Purge eighteen years before, she’s determined to shut it down and eliminate the practice for good once she is elected President.
Naturally, Roan’s objections to the annual ‘cleansing’ doesn’t sit all too well with the Founding Fathers and order the assassination of the Senator during the upcoming Purge. Protected by Detective Barnes (Grillo), Roan’s security system is soon breached, forcing her and Barnes to flee and head to the streets where the annual violence has already begun.
Playing off of the same concept as the previous two films - except this time there seems to be very little creative direction from DeMonaco - there is an obvious lack of danger present in the mix, with the writing defiantly refusing to explore its premise beyond the aggression masked killers and bloody street violence. What was once a seemingly interesting idea that had theory behind it, now relies on a shock value that has simmered over the trilogy.
Offering a not-so-subtle political viewpoint, subjects such as racism, sexism and religion are integrated into the storyline, but are never really explored in the context of the film’s concept.
Adding to the story’s demise are performances from a cast who fail to evoke any emotion throughout the entire movie, let alone establish a connection with the audience. As the fearlessly-protective cop, Grillo is stiff and ends up taking the material given a little too seriously, while Mitchell is surprisingly hollow as the idealistic politician.
The rules of the game are unclear and the gaps in logic in DeMonaco’s flimsy screenplay are aplenty. Bloody, violent and ridiculously adrift, The Purge: Election Year has failed to cash in on its potential and has settled on a meandering ending to the series, reminding us all that it was probably never really that good to begin with.