Better the devil you know

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When it comes to films by M. Night Shyamalan, they’re either hit or miss with critics and the public at large. ‘Signs’ and ‘The Sixth Sense’ were well received by the press and the box office, while ‘The Village’ and ‘Lady In The Water’ were panned by the media and negatively critiqued even by the most ardent of Shyamalan followers. New movie ‘Devil’ will have you all divided.

There are some brilliant elements to this horror-come-thriller, such as the innovative title sequence that sees an upside-down camera panning, weaving and zooming slowly through a glistening Philadelphia city. At once the viewer is subject to a sense of vertigo but, granted the title of the film and the ultimate ‘whoosh’ of the camera via a tiny vent of a skyscraper, you realise you’ve been viewing the city through the eyes of the Devil himself. This gives the viewer an immediate sense of power and places the film’s five protagonists – who are unfortunate to have gotten stuck in a faulty elevator – as the ultimate baddies in what turns out to be one very twisted plot.

Each character has done a bad deed, and for this the Devil wants them to pay. A strange premise, seeing as demons are supposed to encourage us mere mortals to do wicked things, while it is God who is supposed to have us confessing and giving penance for our sins. But deconstructing notions of faith, fate and religion is somewhat of a pastime for director Shyamalan and whether we consider it sacrilege or not, it must be said that at least the guy keeps challenging norms.

He’s also very good at elevating emotion and creating tension, even in the smallest of settings. The lift in which his protagonists are stuck is walled with a large mirror to give a sense of space in a tight place – much needed for broad dynamics in character discourse – but he knows when to zoom in close or have a character look the lens right in the eye when an appropriate sense of claustrophobia is supposed to be felt.

For fans, this film should be considered one of Shyamalan’s better ventures. And he’s surely praying for its success because, going under the banner of ‘The Night Chronicles’, it looks like there are several more scary instalments to come.

‘Devil’ hits cinemas December 2nd.