Review in a Hurry: Getting stuck in an elevator is frightening enough, but what if you were stuck in there with, I don't know, could it be...SATAN? On paper it's a ridiculous premise, but in execution works surprisingly well. At the very least, you've never seen another film quite like it.
The Bigger Picture: M. Night Shyamalan has deservedly taken a beating as of late. He can't do fantasy or 3-D worth a damn, and his seeming arrogance in the face of audience disappointment has given many critics the excuse they always wanted to dub him a "ding-dong." Just about every audience that has seen the trailer for Devil has either burst out laughing or emitted a loud sigh the moment they see his name attached, and if they sat through Lady in the Water and The Last Airbender, who can begrudge them a bit of cynicism?
Now, Devil is no Sixth Sense or Unbreakable—for one thing, nobody in the cast is remotely the caliber of Bruce Willis—but at 80 minutes, it cannot be called overindulgent, which may be due to Shyamalan only being a writer and producer this time, and not director. (Helming duties fall to John Erick Dowdle, whose Quarantine similarly trapped strangers in a scary, confined space to great effect).
And while the mostly unknown actors have their shaky moments, there's a silver lining; unlike in many horror movies these days, it's unlikely you'll guess the order in which characters die.
Five people are stuck in a malfunctioning elevator. All of them are suspicious types with shady histories. And thanks to some largely unnecessary voice-over, we've been given the heads-up that the Devil occasionally likes to round up a few sinners into a place of no escape, and torment them to death as the world watches and becomes more cynical as a result.
In effect, this means that every few minutes, the lights in the elevator go out, scary noises are heard, and when they come back up, something horrible has happened and the surviving captives go even more nuts. Meanwhile, the cops outside try to figure out possible motives for whatever it is that's going on, while trying to break in and free the lift-bound.
It's a bit unfortunate that the studio seems to have assumed stupidity on the part of potential viewers, leading to some awkward narration by a peripheral character that more or less tells us what's going to happen before it does. And when that same character later reiterates his points, it just might make viewers laugh for the wrong reasons. But the core of the suspense remains solid, and even the most jaded might find themselves jumping once or twice.
I don't mind admitting I took the stairs in the parking lot afterward.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Giving this movie a good review may encourage Night to do more Airbender sequels.