“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the Devil walks
about like a roaring lion, seeking who he may devour.” ~Peter 5:8
This quote (which should be noted as “1 Peter 5:8“) opens the film Devil, in which 5 people, apparently total strangers, get stuck in a malfunctioning elevator, but soon realize that there is an even greater problem present. Those trying to get the stuck passengers out – some of the building’s security personnel and a pair of police detectives – also see that something else is not right and it is soon suggested that the Devil has planned all of this to happen. Overall, the film plays out as a good horror film and is very far removed from the gratuitous slasher nonsense that seems to permeate the genre. And wouldn’t you know it, in this film’s interesting portrayal of lurking evil and subversion of spirit, there are some solid anti-Zionist themes.
This was one of the first images used to promote the film, a rather bleak and dark poster, but there is a subliminal hexagram there in the form of the elevator buttons. The “down” button acts as the V, however when put together with the “up” button we get a six-pointed star and not the usual Satanic pentagram. These two buttons are the only actual objects in the poster, the rest is writing – credits and the tag-line “Bad things happen for a reason,” which suggests an ominous plan slowly coming together.
The film’s opening sequence is a series of upside-down aerial shots of Philadelphia, the final of which enters a building, travels down an elevator shaft, where we’ll spend most of the film, then flows into the building lobby, where the first key event takes place: a man falls onto a van parked outside. The janitor cleaning the lobby doesn’t notice as he has head phones on and he is facing away from the windows. Odd, perhaps, but plausible. When the police begin to investigate the scene, the truck has rolled down the street and into an alleyway. The investigating detective even says that it must have bounced off of a concrete barrier before coming to a crooked stop at the end of the alley, thus it must have been a noisy trip, and here the real oddity plays out: no one noticed this. There are no witnesses in the middle of a big city and the detective himself figures out that the truck must have coasted down here. This was early morning, but any modern downtown has all sorts of business in which employees arrive to prep for the day before business hours, such as the janitor cleaning the lobby, but certainly not everyone was so distracted so as not to notice an out of control truck careening down a street!
This either means that the forces, which had propelled the previously described events were supernatural or that people just didn’t bother care. Both notions will soon come into play.
During a mundane week day, it’s even raining outside, five people trickle into an elevator presumably to get to an appointment or work. Soon things start to go inexplicably bad and fear sets in and they all start to turn on one another – each one cares only about their own skin – and there are, most definitely, supernatural forces at work. The building’s computers display information contradictory to what is happening, a mysterious face flashes on the security camera’s display, and the elevator’s lights flash on and off for no reason intermittently with the trapped people emerging from the darkness, first with wounds, but then they wind up getting killed off one by one. All of this seems to be contained within one elevator and everyone swears that that hadn’t touched anyone else.
There is a narration in the film that tells, in episodes, a story about the Devil in which he rounds people up into one place so that he can torment them before taking their souls.
“When I was a child, my mother would tell me a story about how the Devil roams the Earth. Sometimes, she said, he would take human form so he could punish the damned on Earth before claiming their souls. The ones he chose would be gathered together and tortured as he hid amongst them, pretending to be one of them. I always believed my mother was telling me an old wives’ tale.”
This is basically a continuation of the idea presented in the opening quote. One of the security guards mentions to the detective a legend called “a Devil’s meeting” which is essentially a template for the situation unfolding before them. Earlier in the film, the detective was having breakfast with a friend who told him “to truly feel free, you may have to start believing in something greater than yourself.” If all goes well, this would be the realizing off greater ideals. However, all does not go well and the “greater thing” encountered is the Devil who seeks to make people into puppets and victims.
The detectives, the security officers and the building engineer all work to free the people trapped in the elevator, but things seem to get worse and worse. First, one of the passengers is wounded with what seems to be a serrated blade, then one of them dies with a shard of glass in his neck and the nerves of the survivors get worse and worse. The building engineer falls down the shaft, as he tries to make his way from the top of the shaft onto the top of the elevator car. Firemen are called in to hack through the wall so as to access the shaft from the side at the level where the car is stuck at. Yet, as everything seems to progress, though at a cost of life in certain instances, it doesn’t seem to progress fast enough! The malevolence in the elevator car continues to torment the people and snuff them out.
The background narration at the point, when the fire department arrives at the scene, states that sometimes people would try to fight with force, but “some battles cannot be fought with weapons.” This is a virtually exact transposition of Adolf Hitler’s idea of “where we lack weapons, we must compensate with will power.” It is the struggle of the spirit that makes men succeed – slowly the characters begin to realize this. Bowden, the main detective, even tells of a incident that happened 5 years ago and in which his wife and child were killed by a hit-and-run driver. This has led him to not believe in the Devil, for “people are bad enough by themselves.” His idea of what goes on in the World has been entirely reduced down to people either doing good or bad, but now that’s changing.
Bowden’s background story becomes a key aspect of the film’s action when the last remaining survivor in elevator ends up being revealed as the one who was the hit and run driver 5 years ago. At this point, the Devil makes his presence known, he is in the form of the older woman who was in the elevator and thought to have been the second one killed. By now, all the characters in the film have been revealed as having done bad deeds in the past and thus were slyly hoarded into this one place. Then, for what must have been hours of tension and mental strife that have led to nothing but violence and now culminate into an encounter with the Devil himself – “the lies we sell ourselves introduce us to him” is part of the narrated background story.
However, now the lies stop and the last one alive sees what he must do to get out: repent. He thinks back to the time when he committed the hit-and-run, he remembers the moment when saw the dead mother and child, and when he cowardly drove off leaving only a crudely written note. In realizing his past wrong doing, his past selfish actions, he takes the responsibility that was once avoided. For that, the Devil can’t claim his soul for it is a soul that is actually struggling to be free of evil.
“God only helps those who are prepared to help themselves.” ~Adolf Hitler
By stopping the lie that he has been living with, the man helps himself become of better moral conscience. This does not mean being let off the hook for his previous doings, but the important thing is that he puts an honest effort to set things right, though late it may be. As Detective Bowden drives the man to the police station and when they are driving down a long, dark stretch of road, a place where Bowden could easily have vengeance and fake a story (who wouldn’t believe a cop?) and thus have simple satisfaction, he says that he forgives the man for what he did 5 years ago. In this scene, through the back windshield of the car we can see a V-shape of lights fading away in the distance as the car drives on. The V was the first introduction to the Devil on the promotional poster, but now it is a parting with the Devil as Bowden does the honorable thing.
The film’s closing narration: “After my mother would finish her story, she would always comfort us. ‘Don’t worry,’ she’d say. ‘If the Devil is real, then God must be real, too.'”
The film employs much mainstream imagery to convey its notion of evil, but it remains interesting nonetheless. For instance, the truck on which the suicide jumper lands is from a company called, Bethel Bread Co. and Bowden’s family died on Bethlehem Pike, which tie in together – “Bethlehem” means “House of Bread” – as well as allude to the story of Christ. The building that serves as the film’s setting is located on 333 Locust St; this can refer to the biblical story of plagues, but there is a real street of that name in Philadelphia, however the portrayal of it in this film is fictional. 333 is half of 666, the Number of the Beast.
The film’s first shot in the opening sequence is the same shot that ends the film, however, the opening is upside-down, while the ending is the same shot, but now right side up. These are shots of the Philadelphia cityscape, which includes many pointed buildings, just like the triangles on the promotional poster. Thus, we have an upward triangle and a downward triangle – put those together and there is a hexagram. 333 + 333 = 666.
Numerology tends to lead to obsession and inevitable folly, so it is only good to briefly entertain it. In all probability, the filmmakers included it to have an easy understanding of the film be possible. Everyone “knows” that 666 = Devil. It’s practically a selling point in pop-culture.
Visions of Zion
On this aspect the film is a bit more creative. In the opening sequence, as the shot travels down the elevator shaft, it is neither right side up nor upside down. In this location the triangles coexist and point both up and down – and this is where the Devil eventually appears. Then, right when the shot travels to a particular door in the shaft, it spins so as to come out right side up for its travel time in the lobby.
The red glare creates an inverted cross that goes “into” the V, reflecting the inversion of the original teachings of Gnostic Christanity into corrupt form of Judeo-Christianity. The elevator buttons are on the right and a number 6 is right above the door. In effect, the final moments of the opening sequence seem to revert the above cross and suggest that the film’s outcome will ultimately be good. These opening shots are a small representation of what will now happen throughout the rest of the movie. And wouldn’t you know it, the first major event is a suicide by falling down, while the last event is an act of forgiveness and mercy, the sparing of a life.
The film’s abundant triangle/mirror images all point to the hexagram and there are many notions to “flipping” in the film: the first of the main characters to die, a salesman of mattresses, suggests that it is a good idea to “flip” your mattress every 3 months so as to lessen the effect of sagging. He says this while standing in front of a mirror, which flips images. He had been looking into this mirror for a while before this moment and then dies by getting a triangular shard of the mirror in his neck. Seems like the Devil killed him first for a reason. By looking into the mirror he saw an entire false dichotomy, the same one that is making the people in the elevator lose their nerves and turn on each other. By instilling hate and distrust, the Devil is making it seem like the people are killing each other.
The kicker is that the elevator is a microcosm for Zion: people trapped, with no hope of escape, in a space controlled by the Devil. This microcosm can be seen in greater form in the shape of the entire building – it literally has the same shape as the elevator and when the police shut the building down and tell everyone to stay in the lobby they have just created an identical, but larger, situation as that in the elevator. One of the building’s security guards goes to the basement at one point to fix something, but ends up getting shocked by a faulty cable and collapses out in the lobby. With this dead body, the lobby is now a macrocosm of the elevator.
Microcosm – a small part representing the whole.
Macrocosm – a large-scale reproduction of something small.
Put these together in a continuum and you have a fractal, a repetition of subdivisions that are identical to the main shape. In the film, this pattern is just elevator < building.
However, theoretically this could continue on :
city < county < state < nation < …etc… < Zion.
The last repetition is the ultimate, though still theoretical, compartmentalized prison complex that would spread on forever and last indefinitely. It is the absolute killer of freedom with all of the inmates’ identities erased and replaced with small sections of slaves toiling away for the Devil.
Devil = microcosm for (ZION) = macrocosm for Devil
With these two shapes locked together in coexistence, for they truly are one, we get the configuration whose only goal is to grow so as to contain and dominate all.
Right now, the film’s closing narration still applies to our real World: if Zion’s forces are at work, then so are the forces of Arya. Joining the right side is each individual’s choice.
We must believe that we can win.
We must not assume that we cannot lose.