Another week, another horror movie marathon. This week, we are looking at Devil, The Shaft (also known as Down), and The Belko Experiment. Three movies that take place, at least partially in an elevator. Two of them are literally about an elevator, while The Belko Experiment only has some scenes that take place in an elevator. I wanted to do an all elevator marathon, but I couldn’t find a third movie, free to watch, so I settled.
This movie actually has a very Hitchcock set up. Several people step into an elevator, but it gets stuck. One by one, they start getting picked off. Every time the lights go out, a new person dies. Leaving the police investigating to race to find out which one of them is the killer, before time runs out. But the twist is kind of stupid. Turns out, there is no serial killer, it is just the devil, punishing a bunch of wicked people.
Now, maybe this twist could have worked if it was actually treated like a proper twist. Maybe, if you wanted there to be tension, and for it being a devil to be shocking, you should not have called your movie Devil. Just a thought.
Calling this movie Devil is like if M Night had called Sixth Sense Ghost Psychologist. Maybe don’t give away the reveal in the title of the movie. The tension of the movie could have really been good if we’re led to believe one of them was a serial killer. Then, at the end, when the Devil actually reveals itself, we could have actually been shocked. Instead, we were just waiting for the reveal of which of the people in the elevator was the devil the entire time.
The more effective way to end the movie, with the title they choose and set up for the rest of the movie, would be for it not to be the devil. That would have subverted expectations.
As for the movie itself, it is fine. the acting is average, the writing is average. It was semi-entertaining, but I have no reason to ever watch it again. They hammed up the whole devil aspect, with one especially annoying character going to great lengths to state his case that it is the devil. There is even this absurd scene, when he drops some toast with jelly, and claims, that because the toast fell jelly side down, that it must be the devil. The scene is not played for humor, they pass it off as a serious scene.
There is a b story where one of the detective’s wife and child was killed in a hit an run, and a twist is that one of the people stuck in the elevator is the guy who did the hit and runs. And there is also some side stuff about people who try to save the people on the elevator dying.
It is a very dumb movie, that I kind of enjoyed. If you are bored and have never seen it, it may be worth a watch, just do not go into it with high expectations.
The Shaft (a.k.a. Down)
A remake of a Dutch film called De Lift. And it manages to be even dumber than Devil. In this movie, the elevators in an NY Hotel come to life and start killing the people in the Hotel.
The way it kills people, is at first, somewhat reasonable. A blind guy walks into an empty elevator shaft, and the bastard drags his dog down with him. Then a hotel worker gets his head stuck in an elevator door, and gets decapitated. Both kills have their issues, but they make sense in the aspect of what an elevator can do. But then it starts to get stupid. We see two rollerskaters, who had never shown up in the movie until this point. They come skating through the parking deck, and one falls over. Now we know something is going to happen to him, but the thing that happens is just stupid. The elevator opens up and just sucks him inside. Then, on the very top floor, it spits him out, and he falls off the top of the building, and lands, dead, in front of his other friend. Then later, a group of people gets in the elevator, and the floor just falls out. They started the movie with deaths that sort of make sense, and then just descended into sheer absurdity.
The reason the elevator kills is even worse though. See, this engineer, decided to experiment whit organic microchips. So he built chips, with a human brain. I kind of got lost in some of the explanations, because the movie is so long, boring, and has so many pointless scenes. But apparently, the guy whose brain was used to make the chip is vengeful for being killed.
The movie is all over the place. There are so many characters that serve no purpose. They will introduce someone in one scene, only for nothing interesting to happen and for it to have no impact on the rest of the film. There is a school teacher, who is vulgar towards the kids she teaches. I assumed she was being set up for a random death, but then after a quick scene, she disappears from the movie? Why did we need that scene? There is a hotel employee who gets nervous because his pregnant wife gets stuck in an elevator. He gets a ton of set up, and then after the scene, we never see him again. The movie is almost two hours long, and about 40 minutes of it is completely pointless.
It is so boring and meandering. The acting ranges from fine, to awful. Some of the dialogue is very matter of fact and grinding. People just explain what is happening. But no one talks like that. No one just explains the things they are seeing when they talk. But half the characters in the movie talk like that. I can tell that whoever wrote the script, never read it aloud before submitting it, because if they had, they would know how awkward it sounds.
It has some real actors in it as well, Like Ron Perlman and Naomi Watts. But even they are uninteresting reading the stilted dialogue. This movie is hard to watch. It felt like they took the rough draft and just said they are done.
The Belko Experiment
When I first heard of this movie, I was excited. Written by James Gunn was a good sign. And I really like the concept. The people in an office building, forced to kill each other to survive after a mysterious voice comes over the intercom and tells them that they need to kill three fellow employees within an hour, or six will be killed. Then once they get past that stage, the numbers they have to kill grow and grow.
It was such a great concept. I was excited to see a movie where peoples humanity is tested, and they are forced to make desperate decisions to survive. But did director Greg McLean deliver on Gunn’s promising script? Eh.
There are definitely some positive aspects of the film. Some very strong performances, like from John C McGinley. James Gunn’s usual humor also comes through, and there are some darkly funny bits. But something is missing, and I cannot help but think that if James Gunn had the time to direct it himself, it would have been better.
One problem I have with it, is some characters go full blown serial killer way too fast. They go from working with these people, to seemingly enjoying killing the coworkers. I could be fine with one character making this drastic shift if they were already a bit psychotic. Like with John C McGinley’s character. We already see he is a bit pervy and has some issues, so it is a bit more believable he could flip that switch and start taking people out. But a group of other characters just make a huge jump in personality. I would have loved to see them struggle a bit more with this.
Also, the movie is in the office, one would have hoped that the way people killed others, was more than just shooting each other. Use some office supplies. Be creative with the kills. Use some staplers, copiers, pens, pencils, scissors.
I will give it credit for having such a big cast, and still make most of the characters feel unique. I was worried going in that many of the characters would be hard to tell apart, and forgettable. But so many of them managed to make themselves memorable even with limited screen time.
Overall, it is underwhelming. I enjoyed it but feels like a waste of potential. Amazing concept, but only a so-so execution.