the better truth

the better truth

Friday, October 01, 2010

Devil (2010)

The Details of the Devil

The Sixth Sense, Mr. Shyamalan’s breakthrough feature, was clever enough. The gimmick of Bruce Willis’ death/life worked. Signs and The Lady in the Water were not clever at all. In fact it is amazing that these efforts failed to drive a steak into his career. Anyone who has attended a film production course knows the student who behaves in the same manner as the boss on the Television Show “The Office”. The class will watch in polite horror as the fellow student's abominable footage rolls on. The “auteur” prattles on and on and on with some sort of mystical gibberish or appalling unfunny comedy. Fellow classmates nod with grimaces of pity and try to be encouraging. What they fail to realize is their opinions are completely immaterial. This is an impregnable ego that magically turns even the harshest scorn into praise. Mr. Shyamalan is that student; with a multi-million dollar career. It is an unfortunate combination for the entertainment industry. M. Night Shyamalan meditates on divine beings working on occult machinations. No need to watch his films, the career is a confirmation that God does work in mysterious ways.

Having pondered: the nature of mortality, the creation mystical worlds, good and evil, the supernatural, the natural, the religious, the post-mortem, the philosophical, Nation Geographic Magazine, brass buttons, the kitchen sink – M. Night Shyamalan will weigh in on… the Devil; or in this case Devil. Perhaps a more apt title would be A Light Meditation on the Christian Nature of Sin and Repentance in an Enclosed Space. Might not be catchy, but it certainly would be an honest representation of the ponderous nature of the work. It should be noted that Shyamalan was the writer and perhaps the indictment should list the director as the main perp. In this case the state believes Shyamalan is the guilty party. There is a paper trail of previous offenses. God may work in mysterious ways… but unfortunately for audiences Shyamalan doesn’t… neither does his Devil.

There is a well established history of captivating cinematic works which take place within a single set: Hitchcock’s Rope or Lifeboat, Polanski’s Knife in the Water, Lumet’s 12 Angry Men, the Twilight Zone Perandello based episode “Five Characters in Search of an Exit”… and so on and so on… As a student of film (Tisch graduate) and a citizen of the Universe, one would have thought a brief perusal of these classics might inspire. But once again why listen to old-fashioned masters when you’ve single-handedly created: the cinema of big ideas for small minds. In this space you are the god… or someone else. Devil has mediocre creations being punished by a super-natural demon due to past transgressions. The sins are ostensibly in the context of a Christian world-view. Mr. D took the elevator to settle the score – a little preview of St. John’s vision. There are innocents: the building workers and the initial suicide – these are sacrifices to the box-office god who demands at least a few grisly, random deaths if your feature is taking place in an elevator shaft. It’s difficult to have sympathy for this devil, or anyone else, as their motivations are contrived, the acting is poor and the direction is forgettable. It also committed the cardinal sin of any horror flick: it wasn’t scary.

The opening sequence possesses clumsy dialogue indicating the lead detective is still recovering from the death of his young family in an unsolved hit and run accident. You’ll never ever ever ever ever ever guess who one of the people in the elevator is… no need for a spoiler alert as the feature itself is the definition of the word “spoil”. The opening sequence shows a panoramic shots of Philadelphia that are presented upside down. Get it. And guess how Philadelphia looks in the closing title sequence? Here’s a hint – the devil doesn’t get his way… so Philadelphia is now… right side… you got it… great minds think alike.

Perhaps this work is merely a misdemeanor. There are many who believe the state might be squandering valuable resources by pursuing the case against Shyamalan. It’s merely a crappy horror movie from a crappy filmmaker. It is doubtful he even gives a damn, as long as the checks clear. What’s the big deal? The case can be made, however, that the rap sheet is growing. Responsible film executives should put an end to these pretentious, tiresome, sophomoric, projects. Mr. Shyamalan is not in any danger. Egomaniacs with no cloths never feel the sting of public contempt. The trouble isn’t in the star; it’s in the industry. There are many unknown souls who possess interesting ideas and untapped creative power. Why keep backing this ridiculous charlatan? It’s a crime… actually it’s a sin. The executive who approved this film should have been in the elevator… facing the elevator music.

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