Devil’s Due (2014)
(15) Running time: 89 minutes
Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Writers: Linsday Devlin
Cast: Allison Miller, Zach Gilford, Sam Anderson
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
As is becoming the norm these days with found footage movies (and believe me, the term “found” is becoming less and less credible), the main characters need to justify on screen their reasons for wanting to film everything. By using this excuse, it is becoming apparent that the design of the found footage horror is showing cracks, and no one wants to see these reasoning’s anymore. We just want to be scared, excited and dazzled by the brilliance which can often come with this genre. So, Devil’s Due gets its excuses out the way early, and we learn that Zach (Zach Gilford) and Sam (Allison Miller) are about to get married, and Zach’s Dad made a habit of filming him growing up, and Zach has continued that family tradition. He wants to film the build up to his wedding, the wedding itself, the honeymoon and the subsequent pregnancy. Fair enough I suppose, and so the film starts strong as we follow Sam and Zach get married, go on honeymoon and come home to realise that Sam is pregnant.
However, while on honeymoon the pair get lost in unfamiliar streets and eventually hail a cab, and the cab driver insists on taking them to a really cool party to celebrate their last day of the honeymoon. This is where the film began to show some issues with the writing: the couple are a little concerned, but go to the party anyway. If this was me and some strange cab driver was leading me down some dark alley in the middle of nowhere, then I’d be gone! Not these two though, and they get very drunk and Sam conveniently (this word will appear a lot) tells Zach to put the camera in her handbag. They pass out, are dragged to an underground cavern where a Satanic ritual occurs, and Sam is raped by what can only have been Satan himself. You don’t see anything, and the camera only picks up bits and pieces as it (annoyingly) flickers on and off, but I must admit that the scene was agreeably sinister.
Another massive flaw occurs as the newlyweds wake up in their hotel with no idea what happened the previous night. Having filmed the evening what would be your first response? Well watch the video of course, then the rest of the film would have been exempt. Not Sam and Zach though: they get home, discover Sam is pregnant (even though she is religiously taking the pill) and go about preparing for the arrival of their baby, totally oblivious it is the spawn of Satan. As the story progresses, Sam deteriorates and the once vegetarian is seen eating raw meat out of a packet in the supermarket (by way of convenient CCTV), smashing car windows of silly drivers who almost reverse into her by accident, she gets nosebleeds and performs violent grabbing actions in her sleep. Even worse, she is found eating a poor defenceless deer before throwing onlookers through the air. Yeah, Sam is definitely not right, and for some reason Zach STILL has not watched the video of their honeymoon to see if anything happened that night.
The warnings were there in the beginning when a palm reader tells Sam she is “born from death”, and we learn she was orphaned as a child, the perfect target for Satan. There is no mystery here though as we already know going into this film that Sam is carrying the Devil’s child, and the film begins at the finish before heading back to the start, so we know it ends badly, and that is part of the films weakness. It is a simple collection of creepy moments and sinister happenings with an ending we can see a mile off. There is very little in terms of plot devices here to get you interested, and instead the film attempts to rely on a steady build up of scares to deliver the goods. Some of them work (two of which involve the friendly family dog), but Devil’s Due suffers from seen-it-all-before syndrome, and considering the short running time, actually felt painfully stretched. Once we get into Paranormal Activity territory with multiple cameras set up around the house, the film really begins to feel clichéd and lacking in originality.
I would like to have seen a more in depth look into the religious side of things, something which The Devil Inside did so well. When the film heads to Church for a local Communion (one of the stand out scenes) and the local Vicar suffers a stroke, things do get interesting, but there is just not enough of this bigger picture aspect covered, and instead we suffer with Sam and Zach as they are pretty much on their own. Having the local Vicar visit the house and tell them what might be up with Sam, and further religious studies would have made the film much more interesting. Instead we just get Sam and Zach living through a pregnancy with the odd violent outburst, vomiting, trips to the hospital and so on.
The film is not without its good points: creepy Satanic followers gathering outside the house is a nice touch, and the special effects are of a very high standard. The found footage angle, tired as it is now, is used effectively and some of the scares are well executed even if they are expected. Sam’s deteriorating appearance is subtle and it works really well, and as the film builds to its climax, Devil’s Due finally pays off a whopper of a finish. However it takes too long to get there, and the constant placing the camera in a convenient place, or someone else deciding to film at just the right time in the most convenient place and all the other un-original and convenient ideas make the film feel lazy.
Devil’s Due has its merits, and the directors certainly have bags of talent, but sadly this is not the found footage horror to give the genre a fresh and inventive kick up the arse (see films like The Bay, Troll Hunter, Apollo 18 and even Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones for this). Instead this is a mediocre, at times very weak entry into a dying genre that finds films like this continuing to destroy its reputation as a once great and perfect idea for a horror film.