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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.
Trying to recapture the heart, wit and all-round musical grandeur of its 2012 predecessor, Pitch Perfect 2 sees actress-turned-filmmaker, Elizabeth Banks, sit in the director’s chair for her very first feature film. But as is so common with sequels, Banks’ directorial debut is a little off-key and not or as comically refined.
Following their success and three consecutive wins at the A Cappella U.S nationals, the Barden University Bellas are riding high. Led by Beca Mitchell (Kendrick) and Chloe Beale (Snow), the Bellas have been travelling the country on a victory tour, which also happens to include a very special stop at the Kennedy Center, where the group performs for President Obama and other a cappella enthusiasts.
However, things don’t go exactly to plan and when a rather unfortunate wardrobe malfunction involving Fat Amy (Wilson) labels the group as a national disgrace and the Bellas are mortified to learn that they will no longer be allowed to compete or admit any new members to their ensemble as a result.
Devastated by the outcome but equally determined to regain their former glory, the Bellas – who have been currently replaced by their rival team from Germany called Das Sound Machine on the victory tour – are now left with only one choice; win the global a cappella championship or be cast aside forever – dramatic gasp!
Delivering bigger and bolder musical numbers, Pitch Perfect 2 ticks the boxes on the musical entertainment front and the cleverly-constructed mash-ups seen in the previous film will leave any loyal Barden Bellas fan giddy with joy. However, the script isn’t without its problems, written by the 30 Rock’s Kay Cannon, the plot is unfocused and unpolished; everything feels a little overstated and the humour – especially those involving Das Sound Machine –
doesn’t seem to be as focused or as polished as before and although, there was plenty of reason given for the story’s comeback to the big screen, it feels a little overstated and the jokes – especially anything involving any Das Sound Machine member – are quite crude. Even the character of Fat Amy, who was the comedic heart of the original, becomes worn early on. Essentially, there seems to have been little or no character development and, generally, it's too much of the same.
It also doesn’t help that Kendrick’s role has been somewhat downsized in order to make room for Steinfeld who plays Emily Junk; an eager freshman hoping for a place in the squad.
If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that Pitch Perfect 2 will still score big at the box-office and many will be able to turn a blind eye, and a deaf ear, to its inoffensive, but equally infuriating, flaws. Don’t be surprised if a Pitch Perfect 3 comes to fruition.
Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist can rightly claim to be one of the most successful haunted-house tales ever told and so a reboot of what is probably one of the scariest films of all time makes sense in that money-grabbing Hollywood kind of way. But as with so many reboots, Gil Kenan’s uninspired take on the 1982 classic proves that it’s no easy task.
The story is centred on the Bowens; a family of five who, due to the recent recession, have been forced to downsize their home and move to a more affordable neighbourhood. Having recently lost his job, Eric Bowen (Rockwell) and his wife, Amy (DeWitt) have been struggling to keep up with the mounting debts and finding the perfect home for themselves and their three kids; teenager Kendra (Sharbino), her younger brother, Griffin (Catlett) and their youngest sibling, Maddy (Clements) hasn’t been easy.
Settling on a semi run-down estate in a town where the pricing seemed to be just right, the Bowens are excited to get settled into their new surroundings. However, things soon go bumping in the night and both Griffin and Maddy – the latter of whom doesn’t seem to be at all bothered about making new ‘friends’ in the closet – begin noticing strange occurrences. Griffin is the first to voice his concern, however his parents think that he is just being overly-anxious about his new home – that is until Maddy goes missing only to resurface as a voice inside the family’s television.
Written by David Lindsay-Abaire – see Rabbit Hole – the script stays very faithful to its source material. It’s something to be commended, yes, but the horrors of old just don’t have the same effect as they did back then and this reboot lacks freshness, creativity and that extra little oomph needed to bring it into the 21st century. Subsequently, it’s difficult to assess as to how loyalists to the original will receive the film; on one hand, it stays close to the original, but on the other hand, there’s nothing new – no new angle, no new pull.
Luckily, the acting is solid and everyone involved turns in relatively convincing and connecting performances. One of the most versatile actors working Hollywood right now, Rockwell turns out to be a decent choice for the role of the troubled father and Clements - although, nowhere near as powerful as her predecessor - is creepily endearing.
In the end, though, Poltergeist 2015 is too weak to stand up to the original. One of the things that made the 1982 version the iconic horror it is today is that unnerving atmosphere and the unsettling energy which followed the story from beginning to end. For what it’s worth, Kenan’s keen eye and roaming camerawork manages to keep his audience on the edge of their seats, but the predictable jump-scares only serve to take away from tension.