Monday, November 15, 2010

My Movie Review

This semester I am taking a class called Magazine Writing and I have really enjoyed it. For my first piece, I decided to do a movie review on M. Night Shyamalan's movie "Devil". Although the choice is kind of random, I thought it would be interesting just because of his history with movies and how they have seemed to digress ever since the "Sixth Sense".

Anyways, I sent in my review to the magazine, "Christianity Today", and as I expected it was too late to do the movie release since the movie was out for about a month already. However, the guy emailed me back and told me to do a DVD release with a 100 word limit. If they like it, they will buy it which would be cool.

But as for now, I thought I would post the review that I originally wrote just for kicks and giggles/ for those who are interested. Here it is:

"Devil Not So Devilish"

Picture yourself riding in an elevator. There is the typical jazzed elevator music playing in the background as you are riding to your destination, awkwardly staring at the four other people doing the same exact thing. But, out of nowhere, the elevator comes to a sudden halt. All of a sudden you find yourself trapped in a small confined space, with four strangers, no windows, no ventilation, and no communication with the outside world.

Sounds like a perfect set-up for a scary movie, doesn’t it?

In the first of a series of supernatural films titled “The Night Chronicles”, M. Night Shyamalan’s film “Devil”, released on September 17th, is based on that exact scenario except with one added twist: the Devil is among them looking for someone to torment. What seems like a perfect set-up for a “sure-to-thrill” movie, Shyamalan’s touch on the story once again fails to deliver a huge scare factor. However, viewers don’t necessarily walk away completely disappointed.
The opening of the film begins with a Bible verse displayed across the screen. The verse is 1 Peter 5:8 and it says “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”.

The story is centered around Detective Bowden played by Chris Messina (Julia & Julia, 2009). Viewers are introduced to Bowden in the opening scene as he is talking to his sponsor. He is telling Bowden he needs to learn how to forgive after dealing with the loss of his wife and child. Dealing with the tragedy has led him to almost drink himself to death and left him with no faith in God or the Devil. Soon after, Bowden is called to a crime scene where a man has fallen from a building. The same building where the five strangers are about to enter the elevator, ominously numbered Elevator 6.

But who are these five strangers whom fate or some higher power has brought together? Viewers learn each has done his or her own sin that has placed them on this elevator marking each one of them as a possible target.

First the audience is introduced to the typical suit and tie mattress salesman (Geoffry Arend). He tries to provide some comic relief during the first few minutes the strangers are stuck on the elevator but then becomes a nuisance that no one likes. Second there is the typical old lady (Jenny O’Hara) who is frail, incapable of doing anything and yet easily irritated by everyone in the elevator, especially the next character, a big African-American male (Bookeem Woodbine) who is serving as temp security guard in the building. Suffering from claustrophobia and being the stereotypical intimidating African-American male he, of course, is an easy target as being “devil worthy.” Then the viewer realizes how politically incorrect that is and he or she dismisses him from that possibility…but is that a wise decision? The next character is a quiet, rough around the edges, white guy (Logan Marshall-Green) who has a mischievous air. Then finally there is the rich, innocent, cute girl (Bojana Novakovic) who portrays the first victim of the devil’s attack very convincingly. Could the blood on her back simply be self-induced, excusing her from any accusations of being the Devil or the cause of the tormenting? Shyamalan does a fair job at keeping the audience guessing throughout the film.

Jump starting his career with the box office hit “The Sixth Sense” which made $293.5 million in the USA alone, Shyamalan has tried again and again to produce another thriller. None of them have been able to exceed the success of “The Sixth Sense” financially or artistically. The plot and stories of his other films have yet to deliver a twist that leaves the audience in awe as with his first film.
The same is true of “Devil”. As the plot of the story is unveiled, viewers don’t necessarily get the thrills they want or expect from the hopeful trailers. However, this cannot discredit the improvement of the story line compared to Shyamalan’s last four films. Maybe the improvement seen in “Devil” is simply because the only part Shyalaman did play was the actual writing of the story.

“Devil” was directed by John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine, 2008) and the screenplay was written by Brian Nelson (Hard Candy, 2005). According to Scott Mendelson of the Huffington Post, he says of the film that “In terms of pure entertainment value, this is the best thing that Shyamalan has put his name on since “Signs” eight years ago. For a man with such a legendary ego, it's interesting that he'd allow someone else to tell his stories, let alone tell them better than he has been doing for the last several year” (Mendelson, .) Either way, the story line of “Devil” does a better job at intriguing the audience and producing a story that is worth hearing because the movie, unlike many films in the horror/thriller genre, has a point and lesson to be learned by the audience.

Similar to the surprising love story from “The Village” or the lesson on faith seen in “Signs”, the writers of “Devil” create a story about confession and forgiveness. Without giving too much of the story away for those who have yet to see the film, the writers push forward a question of: are we not only willing to admit our faults but also forgive those who harm and hurt us? The inability to do so can cause us to live under a tormented, hopeless life instead of living in freedom and peace.

So although Shyamalan’s movies have continuously lacked in the scare factor, Shyamalan still has the talent of using his movies to present a deeper meaning than just to provide a thrill for the audience. “Devil” may pale in comparison to the hair-tingling moments of “The Sixth Sense”, but there is a meaning behind the story that sends deeper questions to his audience, questions which are probably worth looking into.

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