Devil needs less devil. What we have here is an intriguing, almost Hitchcock-ian thriller with five people trapped inside a stranded elevator. One by one, as the lights go out, another dies. It creates the tension, the effective paranoia, and the overwhelming distrust. It’s claustrophobic, confined, and well constructed all around.
Then you introduce the religious aspect, taking the film out of the realm of single location thriller and bringing in supernatural horror that barely seems evident aside from the flicker of a face on a security camera. An overly religious security guard knows this story, emphatically believing the devil is among them without hesitation.
Everything else works, from the brooding mystery to the increasingly complex and hardly simplistic backstories of these characters. The frantic search for answers is led by a detective (Chris Messina) as fire and rescue try and access the elevator shaft to save the lives of future victims. What happens in the end is more than a small contrivance, the reason for these characters being together a stretch that only the supernatural can explain.
Devil is aided by its barely 72-minute runtime (excising credits) with a fantastic score and well-edited pacing. Camerawork is exciting too, our characters introduced via a master shot through the entrance of the office building, while the constant motion within the interior of the elevator only stops when the tension reaches a breaking point. Messina’s frantic pushes through the halls or the throes of employees lining the lobby desperately searching for more info are fantastic too.
The most praise goes for the opening credits though, a dizzying upside city view that serves to both disorientate and send a message that this world is not a stable, comfortable place. Devil will not be straightforward, and even if that’s clear, it’s still a shame it goes in that direction.
Devil is a dark film, and that’s not just in reference to when those lights flicker out inside the elevator. This VC-1 encode almost assuredly represents the intention, although the level of black crush on display here is tragic. It’s time to bring in a personal favorite quote regarding black crush, and that’s, “Her head looks like a helmet.” That about sums up how hair looks here, the Salesman’s (Geoffrey Arend) head blending into backgrounds or becoming a thick blob. Anyone wearing black might as well be part of the elevator itself.
The rest of the film is acceptable, the minimal layer of grain saddled over the image resolved well if only because it barely makes its presence felt. No doubt the encode has little to do in that regard. Sharpness is notable if routine; the precision here will never win awards but it suffices.
Detail is somewhat flat, at its worst in medium shots. Many of the views inside the security room are sub-par, leaving faces smooth and a hair digital. Since most of the scenes within the elevator are close by default (not much room to work), facial detail not swallowed by the blacks is superior to everywhere else. There are certainly those moments that falter causing general inconsistency, but the overall effect is sufficient enough to establish a fine layer of hi-def sights.
The color palette is rather grim, warmer within the interior of the elevator, cooler outside with a distinct teal tint. Flesh tones vary dependent on the scene, natural enough with a bit of a warmer tinge. Any city exteriors, and there are a few past the opening credits, definitely veer cool. There are no pronounced moments of aliasing or flicker in any of these shots, leaving them quite impressive in comparison to everything else.
A rousing DTS-HD mix is notable for quite a few things. Audiophiles will look forward to lights-out time, the scramble of people scurrying about in panic to nothing but a black screen fantastic. Various thumps and screams can be heard in very specific channels passing through the room with great effectiveness. The score is much the same, distinct in its surround bleed during those opening credits as the trumpets blare in the rears.
There are scattered moments elsewhere of note, like the echo of the basement level or shaft as a serviceman scurries down in an attempt to fix the problem. The wrap-around is cleanly handled. Some positional audio is inserted, the speaker within the elevator placed specifically within the soundfield to split those stereo channels wide.
Bass lovers get an early jolt as a suicidal jumper smashes onto a truck roof, the thud tremendous and only the first of many. Panic within the confined space means plenty of pounding, and the power shutting down always means a substantial rumble. It’s a sound design though that emphasizes those quick scares a little too readily, creating some imbalance in the volume for those in sensitive environments.
Extras are simply awful, beginning with a series of three brief deleted scenes designed to introduce the main players. Three featurettes don’t even make it to eight minutes combined, and are padded with footage from the movie. One focuses on the story concept, another on the devil, and the final is a promo for The Night Chronicles, this movie the first of three planned in this same vein. The disc has D-Box support and BD-Live access as well.