Sometimes the Devil likes to torture people before taking their souls, so he gets them in a group, hides among them, and really freaks them out. One such group is comprised of Vince (Geoffrey Arend), a con artist, Jane (Jenny O’Hara), a snobby middle-aged woman, Ben (Bokeem Woodbine) a security guard with a violent temper, Sarah (Bojana Novakovic), a gold digger, and Tony (Logan Marshall-Green), who accidentally killed someone. The five of them are trapped in an elevator (with a steady stream of Muzak—sounds like punishment to me) while being watched by security guards Lustig (Matt Craven) and Ramirez (Jacob Vargas), a religious man (standing in here for the superstitious Latina lady who always knows how to fight demons) who quickly figures out what’s going on, as well as two detectives (Chris Messina, Joshua Peace). As the five damned people die off one by one, the survivors have to scramble to avoid being next.
It’s an interesting choice on the part of the filmmakers not to focus much on the wrongdoing of the main characters. Their misdeeds are only discussed in passing by the detectives. All the audience really sees is a bunch of scared people acting aggressively because they’re cornered. Maybe it’s so we care if the characters live or die, despite being told in the first few minutes that they’re all doomed. (The plot is a bit overemphasized, with a voiceover by Ramirez at the beginning, then a rehashing for both his coworker and the detectives).
It’s written by M. Night Shyamalan and directed by John Erick Dowdle (The Poughkeepsie Tapes, Quarantine, As Above, So Below). The film is quite entertaining, jumping right into the story. Despite its fatalistic premise, it’s ultimately optimistic, showing human capacity for selflessness and forgiveness. It’s spiritual without being overly preachy. It’s also a bit creepy at times; the Devil is shown in human form with iris-less black eyes—it’s not an original look, but eerie all the same. To paraphrase Ramirez, we all believe in the Devil a little.