DEVIL M. Night Shyamalan cooked up this twisty straw story of sin, punishment and redemption, in which five strangers — a biddy, a princess, a security guard, an ex-Marine and a jerk-off mattress salesman — find themselves stuck together in an inaccessible highrise elevator. When, under cover of periodic blackouts, mere inconvenience takes a violent turn, Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) is brought in to monitor the elevator camera feed and spearhead a rescue. While Bowden digs up the histories of those trapped to find the logical culprit, one security guard insists on an explanation from his childhood bedtime stories that goes beyond the corporeal plane: Sometimes not content to wait to receive sinners in eternal damnation, the devil will visit Earth to violently murder them. Proof that the Evil One is afoot is offered when a dropped piece of toast falls jelly side down. An opening with handsome upside-down aerial views of the haunted city of Philadelphia is attention-grabbing, but director John Erick Dowdle doesn't pull off anything from there on, failing even to produce the expected sense of claustrophobia. Devil is a Night Gallery reject worth experiencing only to gape at a "spirituality" that falls somewhere between Dostoyevsky and Jack Chick, and to laugh that such daring feats of narrative illogic were undertaken with a straight face. (Nick Pinkerton) (Citywide)
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