In this new series of articles I will make a case for why a particular film is the worst one that has ever been made. As I am sure you are aware, this is just a fun exercise as the worst film ever made is clearly Episode 1 : The Phantom Menace. Never-the-less, It’s fun to try and make the case that any other movie could come close to that level of shame. Today’s subject is the 2010 movie, Devil, written by everyone’s favorite twist expert, M Night Shyamalan.
I’m only five minutes into this movie and I’ve realized it’s going to be really, really bad. I’ve pulled out my laptop and will start walking you though it as I watch it. This should be fun.
Devil wastes no time declaring that it is horrible. As the movie begins, a narration kicks in telling you a story about how the Devil likes to pretend he’s a person and wreak havoc. Movie narration is always a bad sign, and this one is no different. In the very first seconds of the movie it has already committed an atrocious sin by revealing the plot. In this age of instant internet spoilers that keep any but the most steadfast moviegoers from being surprised by any movie twist, it is still nice for the director of a film to attempt to keep some things secret, if for no other reason then to leave us guessing. Not here. Right from the get-go the twist has been telegraphed.
The second most important thing for a movie to do is introduce you to the main character. Devil does this by placing us in the middle of a conversation between the main character and his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor. The dialogue here is ridiculous and so jam packed with exposition that you will have to watch it a few times to pick up all the details. I’ll give credit to the actors as they do a decent job of delivering the lines, but it is definitely an example of trying to pack in far too much information into a short period of time. In this scene we are supposed to learn that the main character is an alcoholic, non-religious, his family was killed by someone else, he is guilty of something too and hasn’t forgiven himself although he has taken responsibility for his actions. We are given this information in one minute and seven seconds (yes, I got out a stopwatch.) Tip to film makers, your viewers are not able to process information this quickly.
In the next scene we see that the main character is a detective and he is investigating a supposed suicide. In what is meant to be an example of what a great detective he is, we watch as he deduces that the victim, who landed on a van, didn’t jump from the building where the van was found. Instead, he follows a trail where he suspects the van bounced off a barrier until it ended up where it was found. This is all well and good, except that the van is from a cleaning company, and any halfwitted cop would have called the cleaning agency as soon as a body was found on top of one of it’s vans, thus leading to the reveal that it was not parked here. The idea that it took the cops all that time between finding the body and the late arrival of the main character to deduce this is mind boggling. This doesn’t make me think the main character is smart, but rather that the entire police force is manned by morons.
Next we are introduced to the other supplemental characters of the film, many of whom we vaguely recognize from other movies. There are five of them and they are all getting into an elevator which eventually stops midway up. Then we are shown the guard room where people are supposedly monitoring what goes on in the building but are instead watching a hockey game. One of the guards notices that an elevator is in ‘inspection mode.’ I have no idea how elevator maintenance works in buildings, but if the safety of elevator passengers is dependent upon security guards happening to notice that a number on their console has changed to a dash is the only way that people are warned about elevators breaking down then I am forever terrified to ride in them. Are there no alarms that go off? Really? Next, the security guards call the janitor to go fix the elevator. WHAT?! Janitors fix the elevators in high rise buildings?!!! WTF?! But wait, the janitor is too busy to worry about the elevator because he is fixing the broken window on the 40th floor from where the jumper killed himself? Holy crap there is way too much wrong with this scene to even comprehend any more. First off, the window of the skyscraper that the jumper flew through looks thinner then the screen of my cellphone, and the break in it looks like someone tossed a dodgeball through it. Again, I’m not an expert in the field of high rise buildings and how they work, but I’m pretty sure they don’t use Saran Wrap thin glass for the windows and if one of those windows breaks, I’m pretty f#cking sure it isn’t the janitor who has to go fix it. While I never expected a movie about the Devil killing people in an elevator was going to be high art, I didn’t expect to get brain damage from trying to go along with the plot either.
Next we go back into the elevator where the security guard that is also trapped in there has hit every button EXCEPT the emergency button. One of the other passengers has to suggest this and the guard looks annoyed that he has to do it. Apparently the actors in the movie are getting brain damaged by the script the same way I am, because this just doesn’t make any sense. Anyone who has ever ridden in a single elevator in their lives has noticed the emergency button. Not knowing it is there is like not realizing your car doors have locks.
Next, the passengers debate why the security guard doesn’t have a walkie talkie to connect to the other security guards. He tells them that he didn’t think he would need it, which the other people get frustrated with. Then, moments later the guard pulls out a cell phone and is asked who he’s calling. He tells them that he is calling the security desk so that he doesn’t get fired for this. Wait a second… My mind is reeling from the sheer magnitude of the stupidity here. First, why the hell are we debating walkie talkies when he has a cell phone and knows the number of the security desk? Why would he think that he would get fired for getting stuck in an elevator in the building he is guarding? Why is no one else in the elevator angry that he didn’t pull out the cell phone when they were berating him for not having a walkie talkie? Why do none of the business people on this elevator have cell phones? WY AM I WATCHING THIS CRAP?
This is fourteen minutes in. Also, let me mention that my years of watching horror movies have led to my conclusion, fourteen minutes into this movie that the old lady in the elevator is the devil. Let’s see if I’m right.
Next we find ourselves on the rooftop of the skyscraper as the lowly janitor is trying to help fix the elevator. This is another moment where I have to admit ignorance to the machinations of skyscraper elevators, but I would have never guessed that in order to access the electrical system of an elevator that you would need to go to the roof of the 50 story building. I’m going to venture a guess that this is not factually accurate.
On the streets below we are re-introduced to the detective and his bumbling sidekick who is asking about how dating is going since 90 days have passed since either the main characters entrance into rehab or the murder of his family. Wait a second. Did this movie really just imply that the main character has started dating again 90 days after the murder of his family? Or are they talking about the rehab? It’s a bit vague, which is meant to serve as an interesting story arc but the writer didn’t understand the ramifications of the conclusions the viewer is left to ponder. Is the main character dating again after being sober for 90 days? Or is he dating again 90 days after his family was murdered? And if he is dating after 90 days of being sober, was he an alcoholic after his family was murdered? Because the sponsor earlier was telling him that he was doing good by forgiving himself for what happened. None of this is making any sense, and since the information is being passed onto us in such a rapid fashion our brains never have the chance to fully process everything, leaving us to only accept what we can quickly perceive. This is a helpful technique when the movie plans on surprising us with something later on, but here it is needlessly confusing us about whether we should feel compassion for the main character or loathe him. Without extensively pondering the information conveyed, this movie (which is now at the 16 minute mark) has forced us to believe that the main character was an alcoholic and his disease in some way contributed to the death of his family, but someone else was actually the person that killed them, and he is now dating again 90 days after something specific happened to him. Since the most pertinent information we have been given about him is that his family was killed, the conclusion that our minds immediately and understandably go to is that he is dating again 90 days after they were murdered. What a d-bag.
The detectives leisurely stroll over to the building where they suspect a man jumped to his death and find a janitor on the street cleaning up the glass from a broken window some 40 stories up. And for the third time this movie I am dumbfounded by the jobs they give the janitors in this building. Moments after meeting with the janitor, a large piece of paper thin glass comes careening down, nearly killing the detectives. Our main character then quips, “You might want to secure that better.” YA THINK?! If glass is raining down onto city streets from 60 feet in the air I would think it might be pertinent to block off the area and get someone other then the janitor to sweep it up. At this point I am furious with this movie. The only thing that can save it now is if it was all the dream of a seven year old.
Inside the elevator the security guard is having a panic attack because he is claustrophobic. To solve this, one of the other passengers opens up the hatch on the top of the elevator so that they can get some air. First off, getting a breeze doesn’t solve claustrophobia, that’s not how that works. Also, the hatches on elevators can not be opened from the inside of the elevator. I am not an expert in this stuff, but even I know this. They are designed for firefighters to get into the elevators, not for people to get out of them, this is to keep hooligan kids or psychotic passengers from getting up into the dangerous shaft area. The reason I bring this up is because I would have thought someone making a movie in which a group of people are stuck in an elevator would have done a little research into how elevators actually work. Either they did, and are ignoring this fact in order to further the plot, or they didn’t do the research and are putting their ignorance on display. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say it is for story-telling reasons. So, the plot advancement here is that the hatch was opened so the claustrophobic could get some air… but wait, that doesn’t make any sense either.
In the next moment there is a throw away line that is just so funny and stupid that I have to mention it. The janitor that climbed to the top of the building to try and fix the elevator by switching the power off and back on again asks if that caused the elevator to start working again. It didn’t, and to this the janitor responds, “Let me go check the mains in the basement.” Wait a minute. In order to fix a stalled elevator, the first thing to do is climb to the top of the building and traverse the dangerous rooftop to get to the elevator’s electrical system where you need to toggle the switch on and off. Then, if that doesn’t work, the second step is to go TO THE BASEMENT to get to the mains? Forget the seven year old that is dreaming this plot up, now I will only forgive this movie if the thing dreaming it up is my half-witted dog, Scotch, who thinks eating his own sh#t is a healthy way to spend an afternoon.
Back in the elevator we learn that one of the passengers is a mattress salesperson. There is some banter that is clearly meant to pass time, but is stupid enough to warrant a little examination. He is trying to sell the older lady in the elevator a mattress and references the younger woman in the elevator as being rich. She says she isn’t, to which the mattress salesperson goes off on a diatribe about how he is such a good salesperson that just by looking at the clothes someone is wearing he can determine their wealth and then sell them a mattress they can afford. I could accept this if he were a car salesman, or if he sold something that had a large variance in price range. But mattresses?! I went online to look up the prices of various mattresses, just to try and get a feel for what sort of ranges we are looking at here and guess what, there’s not a hell of a lot of range. Determining a person’s price range by the quality of their suit coat is going to net you a difference of maybe a hundred dollars here and there. This isn’t a point that I would normally take umbrage with in a movie, but after every other bad script decision made I am starting to pick apart every detail now. When the writer designed this character, he wanted him to be a slimy, smug salesperson, which is fine. That’s an archetype that we can all relate to. Most of us have dealt with a person like this at one point or another and we might like watching them die in horrible ways, but to make the decision to say he is a mattress salesman is preposterous. He is traveling to the top floor of a massive skyscraper – make him an advertising executive or a stock broker or a real estate expert, not a mattress salesperson! You might as well have made him king of the hot dog vendors. “I can determine if a person needs sauerkraut on that dog just by looking at their cufflinks!”
Dwight, the janitor, is now in the basement (wow he moves quick) where the thing called the ‘Main’ is located. The security guards monitoring the camera feed to the elevator notice that the lights are flicking on and off and call Dwight to ask if it is him doing it, to which he responds, “You can’t do that from here.” What? Why not? You haven’t explained to me what this mysterious thing called the ‘Main’ actually is, but just by simple word association I can presume it is the MAIN CONTROL of electricity to the building! Can you really not effect the electricity of the building from the ‘Main’?
At this point, a mere twenty minute into the movie, I am aware that I’m beginning to write an essay on this film that is not warranted. I should have stopped this garbage five minutes in and spared myself the torture of writing this article, but something about this train wreck is forcing me on. Every few seconds I am being bombarded with ignorant pieces of dialogue or character development and I can’t just sit back and allow this to happen. People NEED to know about this! They NEED to realize what almost got passed off as entertainment. People NEED to be warned!! I must persevere.
To give you a little insight into how this is playing out for me, I am sitting on my bed with my laptop, watching this drivel that I taped off of HBO a few nights ago. I am pausing the movie to write my comments as I watch. I had just paused it to comment on how ridiculous the idea of how the ‘Main’ control can’t control the electricity is. Just now, I pressed play and was treated to this line, “I’m looking at elevator six right now. I can’t see anything wrong with it.” Dwight, the janitor, is staring up the elevator shaft, shining his flashlight on the bottom of the trapped carriage when he delivers that line. What was he expecting to see? Is it a frequent cause of elevator malfunctions that the mechanism gets caught up on some visible gunk in the bottom of the shaft? What could the writer possibly be implying that Dwight might normally be able to see that would clue him in to why the elevator is broken? Nothing in this movie makes any sense anymore!
Next, Dwight steps over to a big red button that is sitting alone on the wall and presses it while asking if it did anything. Then we see the lights in the elevator start to flicker on and off to which the passengers react to with groans of displeasure. Then the security guard radios down to Dwight that there was no change. What? I literally just saw with my own eyes a change in which the passengers then reacted, but they said there was no change. Am I confused on the definition of the word CHANGE?! Why is this movie so devoted to making me stupider by the second?
Dwight’s reaction to being told that there is no change by pressing the mysterious big red button on the wall that we are left to presume is the ‘Main’ is so ridiculous that I started to laugh until tears came to my eyes. This movie has just become so bad that I am enjoying it. In one miraculous instant, I have gone from hating this to loving it and debating buying it so that I can turn it into a drinking game with my friends. What is Dwight’s third step to fixing a broken elevator? Yep, you guessed it. He needs to climb back up to the roof to get into the elevator shaft. That’s right, Dwight’s steps to fixing an elevator are: Step One – Go to the roof. Step Two – Go to the basement. Step Three – Go to the roof. Dwight is my hero.
Inside the elevator the lights continue to flick on and off and the young, wealthy girl gets attacked. The reaction to this is of course for one of the passengers to complain feverishly about the elevator music. That makes sense. Then one of the security guards monitoring the elevator reveals to the other one that there is a kill switch for the music in the elevator under their console. This is another one of those moments in the film that leaves me shaking my head. So the security guards have the ability to turn the music in the elevators on and off but nothing else. They are utterly helpless to effect the elevators in their building in any way what-so-ever other then to turn the music on and off. Why would that be the one power they would have over the elevators? In this sky scraper, the security guards that monitor the elevator cameras and are the only ones that hear the alarms in those elevators or can talk to the people in them have no control over anything in those elevators other than the music? Even my dog, Scotch, isn’t stupid enough to write this movie. Go back to that turd, Scotch, I’m not accusing you of making this anymore. It had to be Shaymalan!
The security guards watching the elevator decide to call the police after seeing that someone in the elevator is bleeding. Never mind the fact that the police are already at this building, investigating the suicide, and apparently have not bothered speaking with the building’s security service nor the janitor, Dwight, that was in charge of fixing the broken window. Also, Dwight’s role in the building has suddenly shifted from janitor to head engineer, which is an interesting development for him. Bravo Dwight!
When our detective buddy is given the call to check on the elevator mishap (do they often tell detectives to stop their current cases to check on a call nearby – that doesn’t seem plausible) he meets with the security team and tells them to call the elevator company and the fire department. The security guards seem exasperated by this, but it seems like this would have been step one in the “My Elevator’s Broken – What Do I Do Now?” handbook. I’m guessing the handbook is located beside the elevator music kill switch, which is why Dwight never saw it and instead had to go to the roof, then the basement, then the roof again.
The lights in the elevator start flicking on and off and our young woman starts having visions of everyone else dead around her. Then all hell breaks loose, glass starts breaking, and the mattress king gets stabbed in the throat. Then my favorite line in this movie, and perhaps ever spoken in the english language, is uttered. One of the security guards is a religious Mexican man (who also provides the useless and continued narration) who is trying to convince everyone else that the devil is making this happen. To explain this, he picks up a piece of toast and drops it then says, “When he’s near, everything goes wrong. Toast falls jelly side down.”
BWHAHAHAHAHA! OH MY GOD! This is better then the time Dwight said he had to go to the roof again. Seriously? When the Devil’s near toast falls jelly side down? Those words need to be emblazoned on a necklace that I can wear forever. When the Devil’s near, toast falls jelly side down. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
The elevator occupants are trying to deal with the idea that one of them just killed the mattress king and the former soldier in the group starts to climb up through the opening, but the old lady (she’s the devil – right? We’ve all agreed on that?) starts screaming that he’s trying to escape. Then they pull him back in, because you know, if he got up there he might Spiderman his way out of the shaft and then web swing to safety. Seriously, how the hell did they think he was planning on escaping?
Our detective friend discovers that the dead mattress king was actually the mastermind of a massive ponzi scheme and that lots of people wanted him dead! So then why does he carry around mattress salesperson business cards? Is that how Bernie Madoff convinced so many people to trust him? By pretending to sell mattresses? Whatever.
In the next scene, our detective friend tells the Mexican guard that he doesn’t believe in the Devil and shows him a note that says, “I’m so sorry.” He explains that this note was left at the scene of a hit and run that killed his wife and daughter. He says that with people like that, there’s no need for a Devil. This again reinforces the idea that our main character’s family was killed 90 days ago. Forget the whole alcoholic anonymous thing that was hinted at early on, because the movie has never again reinforced that idea. Nope, here we are being given confirmation that our main character’s family died 90 days ago and that he has recently started dating again. In fact, we’ve met his girlfriend. She’s a detective that has been shoehorned into this terrible plot investigating the suicide jumper. If we are supposed to feel sorry for the main character because he lost his family, perhaps it isn’t the best idea to tell us that he has started dating just a mere 90 days after the accident. That sort of makes me hate him.
Our detective friend seems to notice while watching the security footage from earlier that the young woman in the car pretended that the mattress king had touched her butt. Considering they have no audio from the elevator there is absolutely no way he could have possibly deduced this. It is a supernatural leap of intuition for him to come up with this, yet that is what we are supposed to go along with. Can someone bring Dwight back into this movie, please? Because I’m just not having any fun anymore.
BAM! Next scene Dwight is back. Now he’s slowly dropping into the elevator shaft via a cable while the people in the elevator continue to fight with one another. Then Dwight’s cable breaks and he falls to his death onto the top of the elevator! NOOOOO! Why did his cable break?! Oh yeah – because toast falls jelly side down.
Things continue to get stupider as the guards debate whether or not the fire department should break through the wall to get to the elevator since they can’t get in through the doors. Guess what, screen writer, you know that hatch on top of the elevator that you have been using for other reasons in the plot? Yeah, that thing is specifically designed for firemen to get into stalled elevators to help people out. I think the firemen in your story would probably know about that and would ask to get in there before they would start sledgehammering through the wall. But yeah, whatever, just go ahead and show us a scene of them pounding into a wall with a company logo emblazoned on it. That makes sense.
While watching the camera feed the detective notices a spliced in scene where everyone in the elevator is dead. He commands the security guard to rewind the tape while asking what just happened. The security guard says it was nothing, that the hard drive just crashed in a throw away line that no one with a brain ever proof read. Did he really just say that it was no big deal, that the hard drive just crashed for a second which caused the tape to skip a little? Did someone actually write that line into a script, because the words, “crashed hard drive” are not generally preceded by, “It’s no big deal. It’s just a…” without a heavy dose of sarcasm injected in there. However, the detective agrees and moves along. Yeah – the tape probably skipped and showed a scene with everyone dead in there because the hard drive crashed for a second. It’s probably Windows Vista – that sh#t’s wacky. And toast falls jelly side down on those hard drives sometimes.
Then the lights in the elevator go off again, then pop back on to reveal that the old lady is hanging dead from the ceiling! Well crap. I thought she was the devil, but I guess not. The detective is convinced that someone in the elevator did it, which strains credibility a tad since the lights were off for at most four seconds. How the hell did someone else in that elevator string her up like that in four seconds? Don’t bother pondering that as no one else in this movie will. Also, I’ve never actually strung someone else up with a noose and watched them die, but I do know that they don’t die instantaneously unless their neck was snapped from the jerking motion after falling. If someone strung her up in this elevator she would have had to choke to death, and when the lights kicked back on she would have been kicking around and struggling with the rope. But of course everyone in the elevator decides she is dead upon first seeing her hanging there.
In the next scene we see the two living men in the elevator cutting the old woman down and then trying to close her eyes. The security guard in the elevator mentions that you can’t close a person’s eyes after they die in a quick remark that is meant to clue us into the idea that he knows more about death then he has let on. It is thrown in there as one of those neat little facts that movies like to toss in to keep the viewer intrigued and entertained. However, because this film has gotten so many other things wrong I felt the need to look this one up. Turns out they got this wrong too. It is not impossible to close a person’s eyes right after they die. It isn’t impossible until after rigor mortis sets in, which generally takes three hours to start. I found this out by spending just a few minutes on Google, something the writer of this movie never bothered to do.
The older security guard has now traveled to the basement where the ‘Main’ is located, which is now a round valve that he spins. The movie doesn’t even bother telling us what he thinks he’s doing since after all, I’ve never once in my life encountered a valve that controls electricity. Usually they control water or gas flow. Oh well. He then notices a malfunctioning wire that he thinks is the cause of the problem. Then in the next moment he is walking through the lobby of the building after having been horribly burned. Is the door to the basement located in the lobby? That’s a weird building layout. Anyone walking into this building can access the basement from the lobby before they even pass through security? That seems pretty strange considering the basement is where they keep the ‘Main.’ But then again, the ‘Main’ doesn’t seem to do anything at all.
In the next moment of brilliance, the detective deduces that the black security guard in the elevator has been hired to kill the young woman! That’s probably why he killed everyone else in the elevator first, cause, yeah…. because…. wait a minute. That makes no f#cking sense.
It doesn’t matter, because as soon as this plot thread starts up it ends as the lights flicker off and on and then the black guard is laying dead on the ground with his head twisted around like the Exorcist kid. The detective is determined to get into that elevator to help the people and he is trying to get the firefighters to move quicker! But they just can’t saw through that concrete fast enough. Nevermind there is a hatch on the top of the elevator that can get you right into it.
The detective tries to convince the two survivors in the elevator to calm down as they square off, each convinced the other one is the killer. He says that he understands what they’re going through because of something that happened to him. Was he stuck in an elevator with a killer while people all around him started to die? Because if not I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know what they’re going through. However, this is the moment that the script is going to reveal the truth about our detective’s past! Remember, it’s been super mysterious up until now. We know he was an alcoholic and that 90 days ago his family was killed by a hit and run. Now let’s get the full details!
He tells a story about how 6 months ago he checked himself into a hotel and nearly drank himself to death. So that’s why he knows what they’re going through…. That’s like saying you know what it’s like to go to a waterpark because you washed dishes once.
The lights flicker and the young woman ends up dead on the floor. That’s when the big reveal happens and we discover who the Devil really is! It isn’t the other guy, it’s the OLD LADY!!! Who woulda thunk it! She gets up, all devil eyes and nasty, and we discover another big revelation: the last survivor is the drunk driver that killed the detective’s family in that hit and run! Well, don’t beat yourself up over it since we have now discovered that the drinking issue for the detective happened six months ago, we can deduce that the accident did in fact happen 90 days ago, meaning that the detective was able to get over the death of his family in less then three months and start dating again. He’s a quick healer.
But WAIT! The last remaining survivor then picks up the walkie talkie and tells the police that he killed that family five years ago! This means that the 90 day thing that was thrown out earlier in the movie was a red herring. However, it is a red herring that serves no purpose what so ever! It leads us to believe things that make no difference to the plot. The cop had something happen to him 90 days ago that has been left up to the viewer to discern and only now, near the end of the movie are we left to realize that we shouldn’t have been paying attention to that anyhow since the important event happened either 6 months ago (the drinking at the hotel incident) or five years ago (the dead family incident).
I think the writer was eluding to the idea that the cop has been using alcohol as a mechanism to cope with the loss of his family, but by never revealing the correct dates of what happened when, and then including a vague event that happened 90 days ago, we as the viewer are left to try and piece together this scrambled mess. I went back and watched the scene where the 90 days thing is brought up and it is so poorly worded that no one could make proper sense of it. It is a scene, 16 minutes in, where the two detectives are talking about how the main character is dating again. Then one of them asks, “How long has it been since…” to which the main character says, “90 days.” Then the other guy responds, “Wow, seems like just yesterday that…” and is cut off when the main character says, “Not to me it doesn’t.” The clear implication is that something important happened 90 days ago. Since we know that his family was killed, it immediately makes us assume that they died 90 days ago, but what I assume the writer meant was that the detective started dating the new girl 90 days ago. It is so poorly written that I’m still not sure I’m understanding it all correctly.
Anyhow, the movie ends with the detective forgiving the guy that killed his wife and child in the car ride to the police station. Nevermind that they now how conclusive proof on those videotapes that the Devil is real. Seems like some people might consider that important, but it’s no big deal.
And there you have it, my ridiculous and exhaustive review of the movie Devil. This is a terrible, terrible mess from beginning to end, and the only thing it can serve us as is a great example of how NOT to write a script. I tried to find a redeeming value here, but there is nothing that can be salvaged from this. Some of the actors do a decent job, but the words that come out of their mouth and the actions they take to deal with the situations they are in are unforgivable. In fact, the only thing of value I am walking away from this movie with is simply this:
“When the Devil’s near, toast falls jelly side down.”