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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.
The story of legendary fictional traveller and shipwreck survivor Robinson Crusoe, has received colourful 3D animated treatment in The Wild Life; a cheery, if not a little bland, story of an unlikely friendship told with a decent amount of energy. The film follows the basic plot of Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel, The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, but tells the story from the view of the animals.
The story is mostly narrated by a bright red and exceptionally chatty parrot named Mak (voiced by Howard), who dreams of one day leaving the seemingly magical and tropical paradise island in order to see what else is out there. His fellow islanders – an exotic mix of species including a goat named Scrubby (Camen), a curvy blueberry tapir named Rosie (Berzins) and super slick chameleon called Carmello (Metzger) – however, are not so worried about venturing beyond the edges of the island, content with their peaceful existence and their abundant supply of food.
Things soon take a surprising turn, when Crusoe’s ship smashes onto their shores and while all of the other animals are cautious in their approach to the seemingly clumsy and lanky ginger-haired man – and spend most of their time observing him and his loyal dog companion from a safe distance - Mak is a little more forthcoming and sees Crusoe as his ticket out of there. Realising that they are his only way of survival, Crusoe befriends his new animal buddies while the arrival of two savage cats poses a threat to them all.
Framing the story so that it is told entirely from the perspective of the animals, rather than through the eyes of Crusoe, definitely provides an interesting twist onto this old tale which is undoubtedly mostly unknown to the movie’s young target audience. The animation – although nowhere near as sophisticated as Disney or Pixar - is easy on the eye and co-directors Vincent Kesteloot and Ben Stassen – who previously worked together on A Turtle’s Tale : Sammy’s Escape From Paradise – infuse the story with plenty of colour and engrossing 3D imagery.
The difficulties, however, come with the excess amount of characters present in the storyline and their various accents – ranging from Scottish to Australian – which can get a little distracting at times, while the actual dialogue spoken could have done with a bit more imagination and oomph. Nevertheless, The Wild Life is still a relatively entertaining animated adventure of a famous adventurer which the youngsters will happily eat up.
As far as B-movies go, there’s the good kind of bad, there’s actual bad and then there is just downright awful. Chuck Russell’s latest dip into the B-grade action pool, the exceptionally dreadful and contrived I Am Wraith, has unfortunately fallen somewhere right in the middle proving once again that John Travolta’s faltering career is still very much on the decline.
Written by Paul Solan, the story is set in Columbus, Ohio and it is centred on Stanley Hill (Travolta); a former special ops agent who has decided to leave the dangers of his job behind and now works in the car industry. His wife, Vivian (De Mornay), is an EPA analyst and, as the movie opens, we watch her excitedly welcoming her husband home from a long trip away. However, their reunion is short lived when, seemingly out of nowhere, a group of thugs kill Vivian and wound Stanley before he escapes.
Devestated by the loss of his wife, Stanley is left with no choice but to return to his old line of work as a trained CIA assassin, quickly reuniting with old partner Dennis (Law & Order’s very own Meloni) who is excited to help his buddy chase down the killers. With his daughter Abbie (Schull) very much in the dark about her father’s intentions, Stanley’s plan of revenge soon gets complicated when he realises that there are people up at the top – including Governor Meserve (Esprit) and local kingpin, Lemi K (Sloan) – connected to the murder.
Juggling one too many ideas at once, director Chuck Russell doesn’t seem to have a clear idea about what he wants his movie to be; is it a bloody revenge thriller? Is it an actioner with a political conspiracy undertone? Or is it a buddy-cop movie? It’s very unclear and the story serves up a stream of tough-guy-fighting-bad-guys clichés. Switching the focus and overall tone numerous times during the course of the movie, the action sequences are decent, though the overuse of slow-mo shots proves a little tiresome at times, while the plot’s pacing and emotional is all over the place.
Sporting a ridiculous wig, Travolta switches on his macho mode and, for the most part, we believe him. However, the novelty of watching the sixty-plus year old actor fighting his way through the bad guys – all the while indulging in atrocious dialogue with the slightly more affective Meloni – wears out pretty darn soon. Generic, clichéd and exceptionally tiring, I Am Wrath fits in well within the ‘geriaction’ genre of movies that Taken kicked off, but without any of the conviction of the Liam Neeson-starring adventure.