Tuesday, June 28, 2011


It's been a long time. I'd given up on him, but M. Night Shyamalan finally did something worthy of his earliest successes.

If you've read any of my comments with respect to Mr. M. Night Shyamalan, you'll know I am no big fan. The Sixth Sense exploded onto the scene and made Mr. MNS a household name. Unbreakable was a much more cerebral story. But then it was all down hill from there. I'd gotten to the point where his name was no longer an automatic draw to see his films at all, and actually became a "do not enter, keep off the grass" sign altogether.

When I saw the trailers for Devil, I thought "hmm, I wonder what this is all about...but I may never know," and I naturally couldn't bring myself to consider spending hard-earned money to bother seeing it in theatre. He had become a bad risk.

Well, it was on one of my movie channels tonight, so I texted M. Wanderer and asked him "is this worth my time?" He texted back "It was...interesting...yeah, you might get a kick out of seeing it." I went ahead and watched it and M. Wanderer was right.

This is no top 250 all-time movie or anything. But for a guy who has increasingly underwhelmed with each release since Unbreakable, MNS's doing a movie that some might consider almost "preachy" isn't exactly the move to get back into good graces...er, so to speak. In other words, I got the impression there was a story worth telling, regardless whether the public would embrace it or not. And, in an increasingly secular world, he would apparently was quite prepared for this film to NOT return him to Sixth Sense adulation.

Sure, it was short. And yes, there were some awfully cheesy contrivances and cliches that were utterly beneath what we may have wanted to expect "from the mind" that gave us The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. Again, this is not a great movie.

However, one particular piece of dialog made me tune in with an expectation that we were on to something. A crime scene forensics person says something like "funny thing about this suicide note. It was all making sense until the last line. Ransom notes are almost always either all sensible or all nuts - this one is both."

The last line of the ransom note said something to the effect of "I hear the devil's footsteps." The cop has decided to dismiss the line as "nuts", but her knowledge of the nature of ransom notes requires that it's either all sensible or all nuts. Reading through a ransom note that is all sensible suggests that the last line is in line with the rest of it - all sensible. But, because people are skeptical, she can't accept that the last line makes sense, even though she's already recognized that the rest of the note does. In other words, this ransom note is not uncommon - it falls in the "all sensible" category, whether she chooses to accept it or not.

And that is a statement for "scientific types" who see the evidence of something more but, due to their own beliefs (or what they would consider a lack of belief), they can't accept the evidence that their own discipline supports as real. Despite their own knowledge, they choose to believe something else.

There was also a scene in which the question is asked, "you think you can be forgiven?". The Christian in me says "of course he can," and I was waiting for the movie to go in the other direction and assert that he couldn't...the movie resolved that question with a one-two punch that I really appreciated.

The very last narrated line in the film echoes something I've said myself, many times, indicating that MNS has done a decent amount of research into the logic of Christian thought (which is, frankly, a tough thing to entertain since "logic" is within the context of our spatial limitations and the concept of God goes beyond our dimensional understandings, but you get the point). Anyway, the narrator says "my mama would always finish her story with 'don't worry. If there's a devil, then there's a God, too."

I often say that Lucifer wouldn't show himself right out there broad daylight because, if he did, his very confirmed existence would necessitate the existence of God. Because of this, he operates as discussed in the American Gangster review.

Bottom line - any movie that starts with a Bible text and ends on the fine note this film does gets a pass in my book, simply for having the gumption to send this kind of message out to us through Hollywood, and potentially at risk to his reputation...or, at least, what's left of his reputation. To make a positive spin on this, it's as though MNS made this movie because he wanted to, not because he expected it would catapult him back into the stratosphere. The poetic irony of this is, his previous flotsam was marketed to do exactly that, and failed; this film was not, and has restored some credibility.

Does this mean I'll rush out to see the very next movie with MNS's name on it? Not necessarily. But it does mean I won't dismiss it wholesale. I acknowledge and appreciate his effort here, and if he's back on track, he should be poised to revitalize his reputation.


  1. Heh, I told you this film was "interesting"!
    On the same note, ever notice that with alot of the more recent quasi-horror films based on God and the devil, the ones typicly possed are the elderly, this film included? And they seem geniuely scarier than other possesions? Just a thought.

  2. Just to add to this, I picked up the blu-ray of this film not too long ago...I'll let you know if any extras add any more element to the orignal storyline..lol

  3. Regarding the age of possessed people in recent religiously-themed films, I haven't seen a lot of them to have noticed particularly. The 1970s had The Exorcist and The Omen, Rosemary's Baby was 1968...if there is a general migration to depictions of adult possessions, it'd be interesting to decode.

    Then again, Hollywood also moves in waves. Once one idea becomes cool, we see it extrapolated ad nauseum time and again.


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