Sign in using your account with
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.
Despite its predictable and somewhat messy setup, Nick Cassavetes' latest romantic comedy about broken hearts, unexpected bonds and the sweetness of revenge offers the occasional moment of gratification.
The story is centred on Carly (Diaz); a stylish and an uncompromising New York City lawyer who has never taken love and dating all that seriously, instead channelling her energies into her career. However, that all changes when she begins dating dashing businessman, Mark King (Coster-Waldau), whom Carly soon starts to see as a possible love prospect.
Little does she know, however, that Mark is harbouring a secret; his wife, Kate (Mann), in Connecticut, who Carly soon gets the pleasure of meeting when she decides to drop by on an unexpected visit. Subsequently, Carly quickly decides to dump Mark and move on with her life.
However, Kate – who is having difficulty accepting the truth that her two-timing husband has been canoodling with the leggy blonde – has other plans. She soon begins to stalk Carly, first at her office and then at her home, begging for details about their relationship and some much-needed advice on how to deal with the mess. The two women soon become friends, bonding over their mutual hatred of the same man and decide to cook up a plan for revenge.
Forty-one-year old Diaz looks absolutely spectacular and maintains a poise as the hard-as-nails Carly, while Mann – who has seemed to have had difficulty in breaking away from her characters from movies such as Knocked Up and This is 40 – is the definite winner. As the source if most of the film’s comedy most, Mann ends up serving as the driving force of the film as the whiny – and deliriously annoying – alcohol-loving Kate. Meanwhile, for Upton, as the second mistress the girls soon find out about, things are not so perky – no pun intended –and the model-turned actress is rather aggravating as the dim third character.
The Other Woman has all of the elements of a solid chick-flick; eye candy, a pleasingly simple plot and plenty of comedy. However, it also descends into a string of over-the-top gags, crude bathroom humour and a series of cringe-worthy musical montages with pop tunes.
Wally Pfister’s directorial debut – a slow and relatively complicated take on the world of artificial intelligence – falls short of the type of thrill needed to push Transcendence into the major leagues of sci-fi.
Written by a fellow first-timer, Jack Peglan, Transcendence lends its focus to Will Caster (Depp); a prominent leader of the artificial intelligence research who, along with wife Evelyn (Hall) and fellow researcher Max (Bettany), hopes that computers will one day be able to think for themselves and, inevitably, replace humans and the ill-intentioned ways of mankind.
However, Will’s radical way of thinking soon makes him a target for an underground anti-tech terrorist group led by Bree (Mara), who decide to take out the A.I pioneer by shooting him with a radioactive bullet, leaving him to die a slow and a painful death.
Not prepared to let go of her husband just yet, Evelyn reaches out to Max and manages to convince him that the only way they can keep Will and his work alive is to download his brain – and consciousness – into the system, before his body completely deteriorates.
The experiment is a success, but the new computerised version of Will is not the same man they all once knew, but a cold mechanical shell obsessed with accumulating both knowledge and power. With the help of a renowned computer scientist, Joseph Tagger (Freeman,) and FBI agent Buchanan (Murphy), Max begins to look for ways to put an end to Will, while Evelyn, desperate to hold on to the man she once loved, is hesitant to let go.
Pfister, a long-time Chris Nolan collaborator who served as cinematographer for most of his productions, definitely knows how to work the camera and manages to paint Transcendence with a crisp, pallid polish. Everything from the special effects to the choice of framing looks absolutely superb. However, its steely façade doesn’t make up for the shallowness of the story, which goes from confusing to downright ridiculous pretty early on.
In terms of the performances, the cast struggles with their underwritten roles and, consequently, feel utterly disengaged from the story altogether. Showing off a more subdued side, Depp is relatively passive and indifferent in his performance of a man who quickly loses sight of what’s right and wrong as he begins living in his own creation. Freeman and the rest of the supporting cast are underused, while Hall – as Depp’s despairing onscreen wife – is left with little to build with on the emotional side of the story.
In the end, Transcendence flatters to deceive; from the lack of onscreen chemistry and character development to the absurdity which the story quickly escalates to, this latest wannabe sci-fi blockbuster – although pretty to look at – is just a little too dull to stand with the big boys – so to speak.