A guy leaps off a high-rise, committing suicide in the early morning hours. It's an all too common event in a big city.
Sometime before noon, an elevator in the same building breaks down, stranding its passengers between the 20th and 21st floors. And that's nothing to call CNN about either. In fact, to most people, it's just another day in Philadelphia.
But when odd and creepy things start to happen to the elevator car's five seemingly unconnected prisoners, Ramirez, one of the building's security guards, begins to see a pattern. To him it's all starting to sound like a story the old folks in his family used to tell when he was a kid. They told of a sinister sequence that would always begin with a suicide, a sort of human sacrifice that desecrates a place. That foul action would call forth an evil that moved among the people unseen. They called it the Devil's Meeting.
When Ramirez brings it up, though, everyone thinks it's nothing but nonsense. And they chalk it up to his Catholic immigrant superstitions. In fact, they all want him to just shut up. This isn't the time.
Then strange, twisted images start flashing across the security monitors. And the power in the elevator shaft keeps mysteriously cutting in and out. And the panicked passengers begin … dying.
Suddenly the authorities want to know a whole lot more about Ramirez's superstitious theories.
From the security guard's point of view, though, there's no longer anything theoretical about it. Ramirez is convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt: The shape-shifting devil himself is in that elevator.
The folks stuck in the elevator with the devil are at each other's throats the whole way through, but the officer in charge on the outside, Detective Bowden, and all the other firemen and building personnel work selflessly and sacrificially in the face of grave danger to save those trapped.
Courage, redemption and forgiveness play key roles here, and they're themes that are mostly seen through a spiritual lens. …
One of the trapped five eventually comes to the understanding that their demonic tormentor has set upon them because of past sins. (One is a thief, one a manipulative gold digger, one a heartless thug, one a scam artist, and the last a killer.) The man admits the great guilt he's been carrying over the wrong he's done and agrees to willingly give his soul in exchange for the others.
The man he's hurt (who lost his family in a hit-and-run collision five years prior) has struggled with his pain and resulting alcoholism ever since. And though he's dreamed of finding the killer and getting his revenge, by movie's end he offers up words of forgiveness.
The devil's evil, murderous purposes and his great power are spoken of and demonstrated in supernatural occurrences throughout the film. He sneers at one of the elevator passengers, "You think you can be forgiven?!" But it's forgiveness that's ultimately shown to be his undoing. He's shown to be a magical shapeshifter who is able to casually thwart any effort brought against him—except for an act of absolution.
God, on the other hand, is only directly referenced once. Ramirez tells us that his mother would always close her story of the Devil's Meeting with the statement, "Don't worry. If the devil is real, then God must be real too."
A suicide note ends with, "I can hear the devil's footsteps draw near." A suicide victim holds a set of rosary beads in his hand. A frightened Ramirez drops to his knees and prays fervently in Spanish. He spots what appears to be a screaming face superimposed over a recording of the trapped passengers, but another guard pooh-poohs the idea, equating it to seeing "Jesus in a pancake."
While the two share a cup of coffee, an AA sponsor tells Bowden that it's time to consider "something bigger than yourself." Bowden brushes off the suggestion. Later, Ramirez speaks of the devil to Bowden, saying, "Everybody believes in him a little bit. Even guys like you who pretend they don't." In response, Bowden tells of the driver who killed his family and then just left an "I'm sorry" note behind. He concludes with, "So, no. I don't believe in the devil—we don't need him."
One of the women in the elevator, Sarah, wears a low-cut top. Twice she's knocked to the floor, and the camera looks directly down her shirt.
Devil focuses on the gruesome deaths and murders of a number of its characters. We aren't shown the deadly incidents as they happen. Rather, our imaginations are called upon to fill in the blanks as the camera cuts away or the lights in the elevator black out—leaving thumping, screeching and crashing sounds behind.
We are shown the bloody aftermaths.
An example: In an attempted rescue, a man lowers himself down the elevator shaft from the building's roof. Through several missteps, his safety harness unhooks and he's left dangling precariously 20 stories up. The camera cuts to the interior of the elevator as he loudly crashes down on the car's roof and blood slowly pools in the ceiling panels. We later see the man lying prone, twisted and broken.
Another scene weaves in and out through a series of on-again-off-again flashes of light as the elevator's power is quickly turned on and off. When it's over, one of the passengers is hanging by the neck from an electrical cable.
Perhaps the most directly visible violence takes place near the beginning of the movie as a suicide jumper crashes down from 40 stories up onto the roof of a service van. The impact crumples the top of the van.
We see the damage done by glass shards, punches and strangulation, among other things. A neck is broken, the head turned around backward. A character is electrocuted and we see a badly charred face. A woman and child are seen lying dead after the automobile accident.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Bowden speaks of once trying to drink himself to death. He states that he's now been sober for 90 days.
This is the first flick from M. Night Shyamalan's new production house, The Night Chronicles. The writer/director wants to produce some of his original story ideas and "make them as a series of films by up-and-coming filmmakers and actors."
Devil is a creepy bump-in-the-dark pic that feels much like an extended Twilight Zone episode: The elevator victims' claustrophobic battles ratchet up cinematic tension while rescuers race against the clock to save them and find the true killer. There's also a morality play aspect. Characters wrestle with guilt over their past sinful actions while coming to grips with evil in the world and the power forgiveness can have over it.
"That's not to say that Devil is fun for the whole family," said a writer for bloodydisgusting.com who goes by the name Mr. Disgusting. "As glimpsed in some of the trailers and TV spots, the film actually begins with a suicide in the very building where the five elevator passengers become trapped."
Mr. Disgusting is right on the elevator button. Although we never see the most violent and visceral actions themselves—as lights blink off or the camera cuts away just before each slashed jugular or deadly fall—we do see the impaled, bleeding, snap-necked results. On top of that, the spirituality presented strays pretty far afield from anything actually biblical. God gets only the most miniscule of sideways mentions. And the omnipotent, shape-shifting demon at the heart of things torments the wicked and appears to wield ultimate power over their eternal fates.