Devil (2010)

devil2

Directed by: John Erick Dowdle

Occasionally you can watch a film when you’re in the wrong mood and it seems somehow better than it actually is. Likely you catch this film when you’re fatigued, crashed out on the sofa and expectant that the magic box will entertain you as you lazily flick through the channels. You think to yourself “Oh, this movie starts at nine. ‘Devil’? Nice title. It must be a horror. Ok, I’ll watch that”.

As I write this now I wonder whether I should re-watch ‘Devil’ and get a fresh perspective. My recollection feels hazy. I know I enjoyed this film, but I wonder if this was because I was so damn tired. It was on, and it gave me a light entertainment fix. Isn’t that enough?

I’d not heard of ‘Devil’ before and therefore missed out on the trailers, or any buzz the film may have received. There’s a possibility also that it went the same way as any of the ‘Paranormal Activity’ films went, digested then shat from my memory bank. Perhaps I saw the trailer and then wiped it from my memory. So, ‘Devil’, a film that was completely new to me. I didn’t have the barrier of cynicism obscuring my judgement. I think this is another reason why I give the film two crooked thumbs up.

‘Devil’ contains one of my favourite cinema tropes – the ineffective security guard. As someone who has worked on and off in the security industry for the last five years I get perhaps a little over excited whenever I see a scene set in a CCTV room, or a static guard manning the reception desk of a corporate building, scratching his balls and looking dozy. Disappointingly the stereotype of a hopeless guard is accurate. The job zombifies you, turns you into a goon.

There are several sub D-level actors in the main cast of ‘Devil’ including the funny looking fellow who everybody hates because he is married to the curvaceous red head lass from ‘Mad Men’. This is the kind of cast made up of actors who are usually background members, at best they only get to deliver a few lines. Each line is delivered with desperation, in a ‘this is my moment’ way. The obscurity of these actors fits well with the premise of five everyday random people who find themselves trapped in the lift of a corporate building. None of them have names, they are credited as salesman, guard, young woman, old woman and mechanic. Strangers thrown together who quickly get irritable.

The concept of the film came from the frustrating mind of M. Night Shyamalan, a director who after the ‘Sixth Sense’ has consistently shot himself in the foot. You know what you’re going to get from a horror connected to Shyamalan, and that is usually an old school throw back tension builder. It’s obvious you won’t see the monster until the very end. In the case of ‘Devil’ it is more the threatening idea of the personification of evil which creates the scare. How Beelzebub might exist in human form.

Given that a significant proportion of the film takes places in the cramped confines of a lift the film doesn’t feel claustrophobic. There is movement aplenty, and somehow the way the film is shot it gives the impression that the lift is spacious; contrast that to the effective use of space in tight thrillers like ‘Buried’ or 2012’s ‘Brake’. You see the five folk sweating and bickering but you don’t see them getting thirsty, hungry or wanting to go to the toilet. I suppose that’s not much of an issue when evil is in the air.

– RJW
7/10


Devil on IMDB

Advertisements

Apocalypse Earth (2013)

Ah, The Asylum! Where would we be without you? Well, this site would be about 10 reviews lighter, and I’d have been able to do something useful with my life (not really).

ybsQ2hf-90a5a520c22c63de4cbacb40494e44d6_tn

The latest film they’ve decided to give the mockbuster treatment to is “After Earth”, the M Night Shyamalan directed, Will / Jaden Smith starring film about…not sure. I’ve not seen it and I’m not going to, but the snippet of it I caught on some movie show indicates it’s something post-apocalyptic, or possibly on an alien planet. On the streaming service I used, this film was billed as “Apocalypse Earth”, but the opening titles only called it “Alpha Earth”, which is a rather clever bit of soundalike wordplay on their parts.

We start with events already in progress. Looks like aliens are blowing up the Earth, and soldier Adrian Paul (star of Highlander: The Series and a lot of films like this) is escorting people to one of Earth’s arks, designed to scatter humanity to the four winds and ensure our survival. Problem is, the captain (Richard Grieco, an Asylum veteran) sets off with Paul still on the ship, they all have to go into cryogenic sleep…

…and they wake up an unspecified time later while crashlanding on a habitable planet, finding themselves almost instantly in a fight where other humans are being chased by “invisible” captors. This is as good a time as any to reveal one of the foundations of the Asylum formula – while they rip off the titles of other peoples’ films in order to make a quick buck, they never rip off the plots. That way, it’s more difficult for them to get sued by the big studios, but what they do rip off is a bunch of other plots and mash them all together. This is mainly “Predator”, then “Predators” (the one with Topher Grace, not the sequel to Arnie’s original) with chunks of “Avatar”, “Aliens” and “Planet of the Apes” thrown in.

Will our heroes succeed in getting off this hellish planet and making it home? Just how long did the cute local they meet on their travels spend in makeup every morning? Whereabouts is the sort-of-villain’s accent from? These are questions where you’ll need to pay for the answers with 90 minutes of your time.

apocalypse-earth1

It’s not the worst Asylum film I’ve ever seen. I like Adrian Paul from my insomnia-filled student days when “Highlander” used to be on every night at 3am, so it’s always fun to see him starring in something. But it’s not great, or even all that good. I sometimes get the impression that there are young, hungry filmmakers working for Asylum, with all sorts of cool ideas on how to elevate the material they’ve been given, but there’s a guy who holds the purse strings who insists on the absolute bare minimum. For instance, here’s a scene inside the cockpit of some futuristic fighter spaceship, and they’ve obviously just popped into the local aerodrome and filmed for ten minutes inside an old plane (old fashioned dials and switches everywhere).

I’m still waiting for Asylum’s Roger Corman moment. Corman, as I hope most of the readers of this site know, was famous for making super-low-budget genre films back in the 60s (he’s still going today). If he found a decent-looking set he could use for free, he’d write a film purely to utilise the set. But in amongst all that, he gave some great people their starts in the business (Jack Nicholson, Joe Dante, Paul Bartel, among many others) and made some incredibly good films – “The Masque of the Red Death” and other Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, “Little Shop of Horrors”, “The Trip” and “Death Race 2000”, to name a few. He was a man with a strong social conscience and an eye for nascent talent; Asylum could and should be doing the same.

Rating: a shrug followed by a football that almost hits you in the crotch

Apocalypse Earth on IMDB
Buy Apocalypse Earth [Blu-ray] [US Import]