Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 18 September 2010
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
You’d think Sin City would be a more appropriate setting, but this scenario takes place in Philadelphia, ironically known for being the City of Brotherly Love. Opening shots are panoramic views of the city, but upside down, as if the world’s askew and on this day, it is. An early suicide foreshadows the bizarre events to come.
The concise one-word title fits the very concise premise. The devil and four unsuspecting people are stuck on an elevator. Finger-pointing, biases, and assumptions follow. So does the violence, periods of blackout, and blood, but not necessarily in that order.
Everyone is a suspect, from a temp security guard (Bokeem Woodbine) to a mattress salesman (Geoffrey Arend), to a middle aged, phobic woman (Jenny O’Hara) to a well-to-do prima donna who thinks she is above the rules (Bojana Novakovic) to a shifty-looking man who hates elevator music (Logan Marshall-Green).
Events outside the elevator reveal two security personnel Lustig (Matt Craven) and Ramirez (Jacob Vargas) monitoring the situation with a camera that films the elevator’s interior. They issue orders to the trapped riders but have no audio, witnessing only the silent, increasingly violent dynamics that occur.
First a building maintenance worker (Joe Cobden) then Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) investigating a suicide from a 35th floor window , and finally the fire department attempt to free the three men and two women, with mixed results.
The superstitious, crucifix-wearing Ramirez is on hand to regale us with devil tales, a handy way to let us know that we’re dealing with a surprising, sneaky, divisive entity dedicated to death and destruction. Ramirez is the film’s version of SNL’s Church Lady, pinpointing the problem immediately. He doesn’t even have to ask the famous question, “Could it be…Satan?” He knows it is.
Detective Bowden has a tragic backstory of his own that slips out at relevant intervals and plugs into the elevator’s macabre occurrences.
Not one of the elevator’s occupants is a very nice person. The salesman comes off as an oily jester, full of inappropriate jokes. The young woman has an arrogance and entitlement that renders her unsympathetic. The old woman is suspicious and cynical about everyone in general, and the temp security guard expects the worst from people; he’s also aggressive, never a good combination anywhere, but especially a powder keg in a confined space.
Then there’s the young guy who hates elevator music, in this case, an instrumental version of “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree.” A Garden of Eden reference, wouldn’t you say? This guy looks suspicious while being suspicious of everyone else. Arguments and accusations fly within minutes as the devil begins a homicidal onslaught each time the lights fail.
The film maintains a fair amount of viewer interest until just before the end, when it goes out with a proverbial whimper.
Chris Messina adds a serious, real-world presence, necessary to counteract the hard-to-believe circumstances he must confront. Jenny O’Hara seems miscast as the irritable older woman, having portrayed “Dougie’s mom”, a sweet uber-nurturer from The King of Queens sitcom for several seasons. Bokeem Woodbine is menacing enough, and Geoffrey Arend effectively portrays smarminess and fright as if the two were married within his grey suit.
Bojana Novakovic and Logan Marshall-Green can both lash out with a deadly force when necessary, and seethe with fearful anger that makes them as erratically charged as their faulty electrical environment. Jacob Vargas as a devout security guard becomes both a historian and fortune teller due to his character’s familiarity with Christian beliefs.
The original story is by M. Night Shyamalan, who also produced, but the suspense-filled directing is by John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine) who packs an eerie electrical demonic essence into a confined space. Unfortunately all of the progression is wasted on a conclusion that passes for a twist but drains all of the drama out of the escalating tension – always a disappointment.
Experiencing Devil is like being on an intricate staircase that meanders enticingly into areas of dark and light before abruptly ending at a doorway that opens into a brick wall.
This time, taking the elevator won’t help.