M Night Shyamalan, that avid purveyor of Hitchcockian twists, pays further explicit homage to the master of suspense by embarking on a three-strong thriller serial, named, not surprisingly, The Night Chronicles.
The first instalment, Devil, harkens back to the small-screen chills of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and, less directly, The Twilight Zone.
Indeed, screenwriter Brian Nelson expresses his hope in one of the featurettes that Chronicles will come to be mentioned in the same breath as those lights-off TV staples of decades past.
Acting as producer, Shyamalan has promised to take a back seat on the series and hand the reins over to less established directors, in this case Quarantine’s John Erick Dowdle.
While the glossy cinematic format diverges from the homemade, stitched-together charm of those schlocky series, Devil does at least suggest that Chronicles will enjoy the same free rein to spin out fanciful genre yarns.
If not made for telly, then it’s well-suited to home entertainment, though more in the sense of cheap-thrills video rental nostalgia than high-def sheen.
And so to the concept of Devil: four strangers get trapped in a lift halfway up a New York office block.
If that’s not enough bad luck, the Devil is among them. no, we’re not talking metaphors about ‘inner demons’ here, but satan himself.
Ready with the obligatory corny campfire
story to fill in the supernatural background,
the building’s devoutly catholic security guard narrates us through the Latin-American myth of the ‘Devil’s Meeting’, at which old nick gathers a group of sinners and torments them before dispatching each to eternal damnation.
And things are evidently going to plan as the stuck lift’s four occupants are gruesomely picked off in the darkness as the audience, including damaged Detective Bowden (Chris Messina), watches on ccTv, puzzling over who the ‘murderer’ could be.
The premise and plotting fall some way short of genius, but for all its lack of subtlety, Devil hooks you with its ridiculousness and you have to see it through to its messy denouncement.
The extras, however, are the type of short, superficial, rehashed trailers interspersed with sparing interview snippets that are all too familiar.
The deleted scenes, giving three of the characters a smidgen of backstory, also aren’t as interesting as they promise.
As a disc, then, Devil is a very resistible temptation. especially as there’ll obviously be a trilogy boxset at some point.
Shyamalan may fancy himself as Hitchcock but this supernatural silliness lacks the style, wit and subtly of the Master.