Friday, 30 December 2011

Soon to be Re-Animated...

Fear of Fiction has had a bit of a hiatus (due to summer work, computer-related accidents, moving house and general slackness) but will soon be jolted back into life, as if from a shock to the temporal lobes administered by a deranged scientist.

In the meantime, some good news from today's newspaper:

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Devil Week: "Devil"

This week, I have been mostly watching films about the Devil. I'd been meaning to watch "Devil" (the one set in a lift) for a while, and after seeing said film decided to make a theme of it, thereby dedicating my movie-viewing hours to the Satanic stuff. As there are roughly a trillion films based around Lucifer and his shenanigans, I decided to narrow the field a bit with some rules. All the movies would be: a) centred on Satanic or demonic themes; b) ones that I hadn't seen before; and c) made in the last ten years. All this narrowed it down to only four films that I could think of, making the whole escapade a Devil (Four-Day) Week. A bit like the Three-Day Week of the 70s, thus harking back to the golden era of "The Exorcist" and "The Omen". Theme-tastic!


A confession of sorts - I still like M. Night Shyamalan. I know I shouldn't, but I even like "The Happening" (I'm from a big city, so rustling trees and wide open spaces freak me out at the best of times.) So, being a Shyamalan fan I was rather looking forward to his* latest, a nice classic locked-room-with-the-devil-in-it caper.

It starts off splendid. I loved the opening credits with the flipped aerial shots over the city, for several reasons. 1) The sequence itself does have quite a disorientating effect, which is all good news for the start of a horror flick. 2) The flying-over-the-city establishing shot is so commonplace it is almost a cliche; inverting the footage makes the familiar unfamiliar, subverting the viewer's expectations and creating an unsettling atmosphere. 3) It plays on the inversion theme often present in devil-related films, through devices such as upside-down crosses and mirror-writing.

Unfortunately, the opening credits turned out to be my favourite part of the movie. I quite liked the premise, but the execution left something to be desired. If you're going to do a locked-room mystery, I'm of the opinion that a large portion of the action should happen in the locked room. The bits actually in the lift were good - for example, the police being able to see into an inaccessible murder scene made for a particularly tense atmosphere. The rest of the film seems a bit all over the place. There's a race-against-time element with the firemen trying to get into the lift, some rushed back-stories for the unfortunate occupants, and a slightly ridiculous Final Destination-style sequence involving an engineer and a raccoon. All this made for a film which should have been simple and clear-cut, but ended up a mishmash of horror subgenres, with a liberal sprinkling of cliche. Ah yes, cliches galore. Troubled cop! Creepy stuff captured on film! Superstitious type who has exactly pinpointed the paranormal issue at hand, though no-one believes them! At least they didn't try to drag a priest into it.

On a positive note, I didn't have any problem with the central conceit of the film, which many people have criticised - their argument being that the Devil is mighty powerful, and wouldn't need to faff about trapping folks in lifts just to harvest a few measly souls. Fair point in a way - the whole set-up is a touch convoluted. However, the concept of the Devil is near-universal, and the sheer volume of stories about him/her/it means that "devil" is impossible to define absolutely. If you want to make a movie where Satan has to trap people in a lift, or in a cave, or at a bus stop - fine. As long as the story adheres to its internal logic, then it's okay by me. Satan does seem to get bored from time to time (must be the immortality) and does actually have some form when it comes to playing these kind of pranks on the living. See Dr. Faustus or Bedazzled (depending on the height of your brow.)

In Summary:

Promising idea, but felt like a low-budget idea which had been given lots of money and felt the need to spend it on totally unnecessary crowd scenes and plummeting elevators. And raccoon wranglers.

*Well, "from the mind of..." - i.e. story idea and production. Basically, top billing on the poster because no-one's heard of John Erick Dowdle.