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Shyamalan stamp on ‘Devil’ – blessing or curse?

Fri., Sept. 17, 2010, midnight

There’s no question that John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle’s new film “Devil” is an anomaly in today’s Hollywood.

A $21 million supernatural thriller about five strangers trapped in an elevator and the evil lurking among them, it’s not based on a graphic novel, nor is it a remake or a reboot of a television series from the 1970s or ’80s. The ensemble cast includes no instantly recognizable faces.

Instead, “Devil” marks the first installment in M. Night Shyamalan’s “Night Chronicles,” a planned trilogy of original stories conceived by the filmmaker but turned over to others to execute.

The Dowdles – John Erick directs, Drew produces – are grateful to have worked with Shyamalan, and for the creative freedom he afforded them on their biggest project to date. Yet they recognize that his name comes with some baggage these days. Since the Oscar-nominated success of 1999’s “The Sixth Sense,” Shyamalan has become a controversial figure, someone critics and audiences seem to love to hate, even though his films tend to perform well at the box office.

“Any negative press surrounding a movie worries you,” Drew Dowdle conceded, acknowledging reports about moviegoers jeering and booing the very mention of Shyamalan during the “Devil” trailer.

Still, he added, “(Shyamalan’s) name does us so much more good – the good far outweighs the bad in terms of the exposure this film has.”

Lifelong horror fans, the Dowdles, working with screenwriter Brian Nelson (“Hard Candy,” “30 Days of Night”), set out to craft something that would aspire to the same creepy aesthetic as such films as “Jacob’s Ladder,” “The Omen” and “The Shining.”

“We wanted to try to do something to see if we could scare the hell out of people without showing every last little thing,” John Erick said.

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