In Devil’s Due we are introduced to Zach and Samantha McCall (Zach Gilford and Allison Miller), two newlyweds who decide to honeymoon in The Dominican Republic where a final night adventure leads them to a remote rave party on the outskirts of town. When they wake in the morning feeling hungover and foggy of memory, they attribute it to a night well spent; however, soon after arriving home, they find that Sam is unexpectedly (nearly impossibly) pregnant.
Zach is overjoyed that they will soon have a family, but Sam doesn’t take to the pregnancy nearly as well. She begins to feel sickly, finds her self losing time in lapses of consciousness, and begins experiencing feral outbursts whenever she feels her baby is threatened. Before too long, Zach realizes that something is indeed horribly wrong, as he begins to suspect outside forces are manipulating him and Sam towards some unknown purpose, centered around the birth of their child.
To put it simply: Devil’s Due attempts to find a foothold as the Rosemary’s Baby of found-footage – and perhaps if it had been released half a decade ago it would’ve been a more impressive effort. However, in these days and times when the found-footage sub-genre has been stretched thin by films like Paranormal Activity, and given occassional creative jolts by films like Chronicle, Devil’s Due comes across as a forgettable echo of so much that we’ve seen before – which is why it is even more condemnable for making so many of the same mistakes that plague other found-footage flicks.
Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett – who co-directed the “10/31/98″ segment of the VHS horror anthology – Devil’s Due is an ill-conceived and poorly-executed example of found-footage. The directors think they have a strong premise to circumvent the “Why are they still filming?” rule (i.e., Zach is a video nut wanting to document his wife’s pregnancy), but really the premise is paper-thin, as the film itself seems to realize about halfway through its 90-minute runtime, when mysterious cameras start being fitted into the plot in order to essentially provide an outside 3rd-person camera perspective masked as “found-footage.” (By the way, this film and so many others in the genre seem to have abandoned the idea that this footage must conceivably be found at some point. Switching perspective to cameras that no one is ever going to find is a cheat, pure and simple.)
The script written by newcomer Lindsay Devlin offers little solace; we get the barest bones of backstory and mythos, and the script takes the baffling approach of having its protagonists be totally oblivious to the events taking place around their lives. This means that the main characters are forced into the position of being as passive and unaware as the viewing audience, leaving little to no narrative drive (no mystery to solve, no plot to thwart) save for the experience of watching events slowly but surely careen toward the dark, demonic outcome – which is essentially spoiled by the movie’s “en medias res” story structure.
There are also TONS of logical holes in the story, the biggest two worth mentioning being the “villains” of film (international cartels of demon-baby makers?) and the main characters’ use (or rather non-use) of the camera. There are several sequences throughout the film that require the belief that a camera would be on for hours filming something, but that NOBODY would later come back and check that footage to see some of the very weird things occurring in Sam and Zach’s home. It’s a sloppy concept and sloppy implementation of it.
Gilford (The Last Stand) and Miller (Terra Nova) are fine as the leads, despite being asked to work with some truly lackluster material. Miller gets to have more fun, playing the increasingly possessed host of a demon spawn, but Gilford is basically asked to run around the entire time alternating between an “aw-shucks” smile and doe-eyed expression of worry. By the time the final clock is winding down, his lack of progress (or even basic comprehension of the situation) turns him from being endearing to just plain annoying. Veteran character actor Sam Anderson (Justified) steps in to deliver one or two good moments as the McCall’s friendly priest.
Worst of all: Devil’s Due isn’t even scary. This movie goes for far more “creep outs” than it does actual jump scares – and when actual scares do arrive, they are telegraphed so far in advance you can practically call them out (“She’s going to turn around and be all demonish”). The movie presents itself as being almost like a documentation of some weird medical phenomenon – which is hard to maintain interest in, given how many other “doomed pregnancy” movies there are out there. None of this is new, so the novelty of watching it happen – just for the sake of seeing it happen – is non-existent. Consider this one stillborn, and put your faith in better horror offerings to come. The devil is in ever viewing this.
(NOTE: If it’s a choice between this film and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, it’s PA all the way.)
Devil’s Due is now in theaters. It is 89 minutes long and is Rated R for for language and some bloody images.
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