It’s October. Everybody watches more horror flicks in October, right?
They should’ve taken the stairs.
There are five guys in a lift, and one of them is Satan. Sounds like the set-up to a bad joke, right? Actually, it’s the first in an intended trilogy of urban-set horror flicks produced by M. Night Shyamalan called The Night Chronicles.
00:02 I just have to say, this is a gorgeous opening. A helicopter shot through the Philadelphia cityscape, only upside-down. So simple, but so disorienting at the same time, and entirely beautiful. If the rest of the movie lives up to this moment, we are on to a winner.
00:03 Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Mr Tak Fujimoto, director of photography. He shot The Replacements too. I love that film, but most people think it’s a bit shit.
00:06 Suspect number 1: Chris Messina. Supercop with a tragic past, and a recovering addict.
00:09 Ok, scratch that. Chris Messina is not in the lift. Chris Messina is not the devil. Well there’s a sentence I never thought I would type.
00:13 Geoffrey Arend is clearly meant to be the prime suspect. He’s the only one enjoying himself in there. It’s either a bluff or a double bluff. We’ll find out soon enough I suppose. Although… he did get Christina Hendricks to marry him, so there is clearly some dark magic at work there.
00:17 I’ve got a fiver that says Dwight the engineer guy is dead within 20 minutes.
00:29 For a second there, the lift looked like it belonged in the last act of Cabin in the Woods. That was a really creepy effect, done very matter-of-factly. I have to say, so far this is quite a decent little low-key horror flick. It can either go up or down from here. Get it? Cos they’re in a lift? Thank you, I’m here all week.
00:30 We have a corpse! Maybe Arend is a triple bluff.
00:37 Dwight’s not dead.
00:40 Dwight is looking pretty precarious on that rappelling rig. The bet is back on. Double or nothing.
00:41 I win!
00:45 Lights are off again. Eerier and eerier. Is that a word?
00:46 And then there were three.
00:48 Is it weird that a movie about Beelzebub taking an elevator ride in Philly is the first movie I’ve ever seen to show correctly that you can’t brush someone’s eyes closed when they’ve just died?
00:49 So the security guard (played by Jacob Vargas from Ernest Goes To Camp) is praying in Spanish over the radio to the people in the lift. I wonder if anyone’s eyes are gonna start glowing red or some wacky shit like that.
00:51 It’s her. It’s definitely her. Or maybe it’s not.
00:53 New theory. Maybe it’s a quadruple bluff (you keeping up at the back?) and Old Nick ain’t even in the lift at all. Maybe he’s Jacob Vargas, taking credit for all his own work…
00:54 Dude, you’re a security guard not an electrician. Quit screwing around with sparking wires. You’re in a horror film, doofus.
00:55 Yep, he’s cooked. I totally saw that coming.
00:59 Lights off! New corpse in three… two… one…
00:59 (still) And then there were two. My theory about Geoffrey Arend still stands, by the way. He could just be pretending to be dead.
1:02 Is it still a Mexican stand-off if there are only two people?
1:03 Lights off again! But there’s still almost fifteen minutes left…
1:04 Oh yeah. Right theory, wrong person.
1:05 Now there’s a twist! Looking back, it was set up but not telegraphed too obviously. No, I’m not going to tell you what it is.
1:08 It’s all in Supercop’s hands now.
1:10 It’s not quite over yet. This could all still go very, very wrong.
1:13 Okay, now it’s over.
That wasn’t bad. It was quite nicely creepy, relying on mood and performances to build an atmosphere instead of a chain of cheap jump shots. Kind of old-fashioned, really. It didn’t outstay its welcome either; less than 80 minutes long, no muss no fuss. In case any of you haven’t already caught on, the story was clearly “inspired by” (ripped off from) Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, although it does cut the numbers down a bit. It’s tricky to fit ten people in a lift and still have room for the camera, I suppose.
The five people in the lift are all barely caricatures, and particularly roughly sketched ones at that. While that makes it harder to guess which one is no good, it also means that it is harder to connect with them on anything more than a visceral level. It’s a balancing act between the actors, writers and director; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Based on Devil, I have to say I would be curious to see any further Night Chronicles that might be produced. It was certainly better than anything Shyamalan has directed himself, at least since Unbreakable.