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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.
Given the reasonable star-power behind it, much was expected of The Angriest Man in Brooklyn – loosely adapted from a relatively unknown film titled, The 92 Minutes of Mr. Baum.
Directed by Phil Alden Robinson – see Sum of All Fears – and written by Daniel Taplitz, the film is centred on Henry Altmann (Williams); a crabby family man and a real-estate broker who’s prone to raging outbursts which sadly, have resulted in estranged relationships with his wife, Bette (Leo) and son, Tommy (Linklater).
After a series of medical tests and examinations, Henry soon meets Dr. Sharon Gill (Kunis); a seemingly worn-out doctor who informs him that he has suffered an aneurism. She adds fire to the fuel by telling her unstable patient that he only has ninety-two minutes to live.
Henry rushes out of the hospital and quickly hits the road of redemption. In an attempt to mend broken relationships with Bette, his son, Tommy, and brother, Aaron (Dinklage), Henry needs to hurry before it is too late.
Undecided on what it wants to say, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn is probably one of the most bewildering and cringe-inducing films of the year. Lost and with little structure behind its premise, the film – just like its main character – spirals out of control pretty quickly and one too many ideas, stories and subplots are thrown into the mix, without ever giving it enough room or time to explore them.
Nonetheless, watching Williams in action is always interesting, no matter how crazy and the late Oscar-winner is once again given free reign and even though, he does go a little overboard with the theatrics at times.
Draining, lazy and painfully sloppy, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn is likely to throw viewers into fits of rage, too. An understandable reaction to sitting through eighty-three minutes of nonsensical and unfunny blabber.
The latest low-budget Blumhouse Productions horror production, Jessabelle; a voodoo-worshipping Louisiana-bayou set thriller that is sadly, not as scary nor as ghostly as it wants itself to be.
Set in a misty Louisiana, Jessabelle follows Jessie (Snook); a woman dealing with the loss of her fiancé and unborn child to a car accident that has also put her in a wheelchair. With her life seemingly in ruins, Jessie is left with no choice but to move back into her family home with her estranged, alcoholic father, Leon (Andrews).
Uncertain of what the future holds, Jessie finds it difficult to adjust to her new life, not least because she has to spend her nights sleeping in her deceased mother’s bed. Soon after, though, her life takes on a new route of mystery when Jessie discovers a secret box – labelled Jessabelle, packed with seemingly worn-out VHS tapes. Filled with mysterious recordings of her mother’s tarot-reading to her unborn child – whom Jessie assumes is her – she finds comfort in seeing her mother, though Leon insists that she dispose of the tapes.
Intrigued by the cryptic messages and her father’s strange reaction to her findings, Jessie decides to dig deeper and along with old-friend, Preston (Webber).
The atmosphere and air around Jessabelle could be described as relatively eerie and the film maintains a degree of plausibility – at least more so than many of its peers. When you dig deeper to the heart of the story, however, the film comes up short and is rather timid for a horror film. This is made all the more obvious by the fact that the film almost insists on using every clichéd horror trick in the book.
Despite the plot’s lack of edge originality, Snook – previously seen in movies such as Sisters of War and Not Suitable for Children – manages to command the screen relatively well, while Webber was equally pleasing as Jessie’s Knight in Shining Armour.
Despite a reasonably promising build-up and a commendable attempt to bring a certain verity to a genre that requires more suspension of disbelief than most, the pay-off just isn't satisfying.