It must have been director John Erick Dowdle’s experience in working with confined spaces and meager budgets in “Quarantine” that led M. Night Shyamalan to select him to helm this initial offering of his projected “Night Chronicles” series (apparently intended as a counterpart to Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis’ Dark Castle shingle, or SAm Raimi’s Ghost House). The auteur responsible for such gems as “The Village” and “Lady in the Water” is the man who came up with the idea behind “Devil,” and though he left the actual work of writing the script to Brian Nelson, it certainly bears the stamp of his declining inspiration.

The picture is basically an extended version of a “Twilight Zone” episode, especially calling to mind “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up,” though clocking in at a mere 75 minutes it barely earns recognition in the “feature” category. Five strangers are trapped in an elevator stopped in a Philadelphia glass tower. They’re Tony (Logan Marshall-Green), who says he’s an ex-Marine; Ben (Bokeem Woodbine), a claustrophobic temp security guard; Sarah (Boiana Novakovic), a sultry and shady fashion plate; Vince (Geoffrey Arend), an unscrupulous salesman; and a salty old broad (Jenny O’Hara).

As security personnel Lustig (Matt Craven) and Ramirez (Jacob Vargas) look on in horror from their computer console, the passengers quickly descend into fear and paranoia, especially as the lights go on and off, and they turn against each other. A detective, Bowden (Chris Messina), arriving on the scene to investigate a suicide at the address earlier in the day—and still grieving the deaths of his wife and son in a hit-and-run months earlier—takes over the effort to extricate them, especially after they start being mysteriously killed.

Is one of the survivors a not-so-simple murderer? Or could it be…Satan? The Catholic Ramirez, who narrates, could be right when he opines that they’re all playing out a purgatorial scenario following a bit of folklore told by his grandmother, according to which sinful people are sometimes gathered together by the devil, so that he can publicly torture them in this world before sending them to fire and brimstone in the next. The script tries to keep you guessing about whether the gruesome events are a clever killings or supernatural occurrences.

And though it’s attributed to Brian Nelson, that screenplay is pure Shyamalan. At one point Ramirez explains how the devil works—“He forces you to doubt everything”—and that’s Shyamalan’s method too, though as his recent pictures have shown, he’s not so successful at it as Satan is. Early on Vince remarks, as the elevator comes to a halt, “This is bad,” and that turns out to be a prescient observation. The movie builds a bit of tension, helped by Tak Fujimoto’s pro cinematography and Elliot Greenberg’s crisp editing and reinforced by Fernando Velasquez’s blaring score, marked by menacing brass and tremulous strings. And the cast put more effort into the proceedings than they deserve.

But the conceit is a thin one, and the obligatory twists at the close are respectively as old as Agatha Christie (“And Then There Were None,” anybody?) and all too symmetrical, when two characters suddenly have an unexpected connection. Shyamalan actually tries to turn the blather into profundity by making it a parable of repentance and forgiveness. In the end the attempt proves about as successful as similar ones in the “Saw” slash-fests.

“Devil” isn’t as awful as Shyamalan’s own mega-disasters—it’s far too innocuous and forgettable. But it’s not much better than “Quarantine.” At least this time Dowdle has an excuse—“Shyamalan made me do it.”