The cursed hand of M Knight Shyamalan plants itself firmly across John Erick Dowdle’s short, sharp precinct movie in the first of what is intended to be a series of chillers called The Night Chronicles. Shyamalan says the series is born of a desire to tell stories, but on the evidence of his output, what he’s doing is retelling them, placing old wine in even older bottles, and then getting it wrong.
It’s a shame, because Dowdle’s direction is nifty, starting with disorienting upside-down shots of Philadelphia, where a suicide plummets from an office building as a sinister storm approaches. Inside, five people become trapped in a lift, and each is hiding a secret. A few excellent ideas raise the hopes – for one thing, we’re not simply trapped in the lift with them. They’re being monitored every step of the way, and their phones actually work.
What’s more, a detective and the building’s security guards have worked out that they’re in trouble – every time the lights go out in the lift, something bad happens. Expectations are built…and then it all goes horribly pear-shaped.
Shyamalan has clearly skimmed ‘Ten Little Indians’ but hasn’t thought the plot through any further than this. As deaths pile up (all unseen) the film repeats itself, overextending even its 80 minute running time. By the end, we’re utterly let down by the absurd punchline, but it’s a tribute to the director that we very nearly buy such a ridiculous plot. A shame, because the film has a lovely sense of growing menace.
I seem to be the only person who hated ‘The Sixth Sense, because I guessed the plot 30 seconds in. My reasoning went:
If Bruce Willis has a bad wig and is being kept in shadow it’s a flash forward, which means we’re going to a future event after his trauma – this could be the ‘dead but doesn’t know it gambit – let’s see if anyone else interracts with him.
This wasn’t being smartarse, I’d simply watched a lot of Twilight Zone. So has Shyamalan. Bet he’s good in meetings, though.