In this scene of M. Night Shyamalan's "Devil," a group...

In this scene of M. Night Shyamalan's "Devil," a group of people is trapped in the elevator, and one of them is the devil. Credit: MCT

So, M. Night Shyamalan may be the next Alfred Hitchcock after all.

Perhaps not as a filmmaker but as a kind of curator, just as Hitchcock was for his 1960s television show, "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." Shyamalan is launching a similar brand, "The Night Chronicles," a series of theatrical releases made by other filmmakers but which bear his distinctive stamp. "Devil," the first, is a promising start.

Brian Nelson ("Hard Candy") wrote the screenplay, but Shyamalan came up with the story. It's simple: On a seemingly normal workday in Philadelphia, five people get stuck in an office-building elevator and begin dying, one by one, in gruesome ways.

Names and backgrounds remain mostly a mystery at first, but as tempers flare and violence erupts, we learn more and more about the mattress salesman (Geoffrey Arend), the security guard (Bokeem Woodbine), the young woman (Bojana Novakovic), the old lady (Jenny O'Hara) and the Afghanistan War vet (Logan Marshall-Green). Watching them via security camera is a cop named Bowden (Chris Messina) who refuses to believe that the elevator contains a nonhuman passenger.

John Erick Dowdle ("Quarantine") directs at a sprint and keeps the tone agreeably light - something Shyamalan often forgets to do in his own films. But "Devil" still has that Shyamalan twist, and you can almost visualize the man himself delivering a wry, introductory monologue the way Hitchcock (and Rod Serling) used to do. Come to think of it, that might not be a bad idea for Chronicle No. 2.

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