An abiding love of lore compels horror fans to wade through countless bad and mediocre movies looking for something that gets it right. Folklore is in my blood — a taste that’s somehow been enhanced, rather than eradicated, by my extreme skepticism. It’s axiomatic: those who love both folklore and film can’t help being drawn to horror movies however so often they fail to entertain or even interest us. And of all the horror subgenres, the occult subgenre fascinates me most of all because it invests a great deal into tonal affairs while purveying mythic exegesis. For some of us, atmosphere is everything; if it doesn’t brood, it’s crude. This bias of mine is what permits me to look back on M. Night Shyamalan’s breakout hit, The Sixth Sense, with something like gratitude — it marked Hollywood’s return to mood-drenched horror pieces after long years of over-shiny horror-comedy projects like Scream that lacked the brood and the mood and the subterranean fissures. Earnestness has been undervalued in recent years, in part because it’s so damned hard to pull off. Shyamalan’s own body of work proves this adage; from Signs on down, his films have failed to convince a growing number of viewers to follow his earnest train. A decade after The Sixth Sense revived the eerie brood piece, its director’s name inspires what’s come to be known as the Shyamalan Groan (the sound of communal derision we hear in movie theaters whenever his name appears onscreen). That Shyamalan produced and co-wrote Devil is enough to generate cynicism, but the curious horror fan soldiers forth despite it all, determined to investigate all comers.

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