Sunday, 19 September 2010


Part 1 of 'The Night Chronicles' begins with this yarn about 5 people trapped in a lift and nowhere to go - then they start dying. M Night Shyamalan might have his name all over it, but really he just came up with the (pretty simple) story. In any case, with his films getting progressively worse and worse, is it time to call it a Night?

High concept films like this can sometimes be a blessing. If you can sum the film up in one sentance then you can concentrate on the other elements of the film, the look, the dialogue etc. without getting too bogged down in plot. However, seeing as it's plot that Shyamalan prides himself on, it has instead become his biggest downfall.

Let's be honest, his breakthrough The Sixth Sense was a generally good film. Mainly because of the acting, the sombre mood, the melancholy horror about it all and the well-known twist and hey, I didn't even mind Unbreakable. Sure it was a bit boring, it was predictable, it was slow, but it still kept a sadness that I enjoyed and also Bruce Willis as a reluctant hero is something I'll never get bored of; but it was still a disappointment. Signs I didn't see until recently, and it was awful but did quite well at the box office. The aliens looked terrible and it all felt like a massive joke. However, an invasion from the perspective of a small family in a small farm was an idea I enjoyed. I hadn't given up on him yet. The Village I enjoyed and I would argue might be his strongest film - yes the twist was predictable, the acting so-so and again by the end was a bit of a disappointment, but I enjoyed the first half or so. Then it really did go all wrong, The Lady In The Water might as well have been Shyamalan staring into a mirror and having a wank for 2 hours and The Happening was ludicrous at best. The Last Airbender? I haven't seen it but it's not done well. So after this brief recap, can he gain some more respect by taking a bit of a backseat and letting others do work under his name? Well ... no.

Devil is a tale of Satan taking an excursion to Earth and so, for laughs, chooses to enter the body of someone in a big office building. It's narrated by an idiot who seems to have a weirdo mum telling him horrible stories at night (Shyamalan?) and the main character is a cop who has a tragic past. Boo hoo. It's quite a slow moving film, which I imagine it has to be seeing as it is set mainly in a lift, but at times it's almost excruciating. The lights go off and something weird happens. Again and again. If it wasn't so supernatural this thing could actually be scary but unfortunately, it's mediocre at best.

There are some good aspects though. The shots inside the elevator are so close and intimidating that you feel as closed in as the characters are, the parts in the dark which rely completely on sound are fun, some shots are horrific enough to keep the gore-lovers happy and the general suspense works well, but not well enough that you're at the edge of your seat. You feel like it would make a good short story, or perhaps an episode of The Twilight Zone, but a 90 minute feature? It's definitely pushing it.

It just wasn't that scary, jumpy, or much of anything. The strange figure in the Devil trailer (which again is better than the film) makes the appearance just the once, apart from a lame 'face' in CCTV footage. Why would a scary devil be making lame faces in video footage? Then there's the Mexican security guard who is such a devout religious nut that it becomes absurd. It's trying its best to become a high-tension guessing game but instead it results in a stupid attempt to create horror from, basically, nothing.

Seeing as this is Part 1, you can't help but feel there must be a continuing theme that we will see happening. I imagine the suicide at the beginning (don't worry, it's almost the first thing you see) would probably appear in a later film, but I wish that he would have done perhaps a 2 and a half or three hour feature of his trilogy, Grindhouse style. But then maybe the other two will blow us out of the water? Well, I doubt it. Especially if there's a Lady in it.

Rating: 5/10

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