Movie review: “Devil’s Due”

devil's due

Devil's Due

dir. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Release Date: Jan 17, 14

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A nice, upper-middle class couple named Sam and Zach (Alison Miller and Zach Gilford) go to an exotic island (the Dominican Republic, in this case) for their honeymoon, and Zach just can’t put his trusty videocamera down for the sake of starting a “family history.” They get into a cab, and the driver takes them to a strange, underground nightclub with all sorts of native markings on the outside. The couple head home after a lost night of heavy drinking, Sam is now pregnant, and wouldn’t you just know it, their dog hates her and their priest is wary around her and she’s having all kinds of complications carrying their bundle of joy to term.

That may as well be a cursory description of virtually every “demon baby” movie since Rosemary’s Baby, and now, here is Devil’s Due, another perfectly cromulent nail in the found footage subgenre’s coffin. The logic of “found footage” has always been wonky, but the best films have either found ways to explain it (Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity to an extent) or simply disregarded all interest in explaining it (Chronicle, the [REC] series as it went on). Devil’s Due has all the same security cam non-suspense that so many other films have plumbed, and even its handycam sequences ring false, the overly crisp HD photography so distracting that you couldn’t be faulted for wondering if Zach had purchased a full RED ONE rig to chronicle Sam’s troubled pregnancy. (It’s a much, much better film if you give in to that particular urge.)

While demonic possession films have been the horror approach du jour in the past decade or so, virtually everything that can be done with them has now been done, even at the mainstream level. So in that regard, Devil’s Due feels woefully late to the party, even if it’s a movie that probably would’ve felt fresher if just released a few years ago. But even then Devil’s Due would scarcely make the cut. Between Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen and the Paranormal Activity franchise, there’s little to nothing in Devil’s Due that you haven’t already seen. Even the film’s best sequence, in which it briefly leaves Sam and Zach to follow a random group of teenagers in the woods messing around with dead animals, is blatantly lifted from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s work on the first V/H/S film as half of the Radio Silence collective. Devil’s Due isn’t even bad, so much as it’s too far behind the curve to rate as anything interesting or memorable.

  • SeethaSankaranarayan

    Nice assessment, Dom. The Spotify ads alone gave me the sense that it wouldn’t leave much of a lasting contribution in the realms of found footage and devil baby films (haven’t seen this on but enjoyed most of the other ones you mentioned). It was that one line about the couple experiencing ‘a strange lost night on their honeymoon’ that set it off — how is that a premise? Even ‘V/H/S’ was a stretch for me.

    • Dominick

      I’d agree. V/H/S I was fine with because the “premise” was really just a framing device for a collection of short films. Devil’s Due, however, is an entire horror film predicated on the idea that this couple had a camera MOUNTED TO THE HUSBAND’S SHIRT and wouldn’t even think to rewind it and see what happened during their blackout evening until about 20 minutes before the end of the film. I’m not typically nitpicky with horror movie logic, but that’s just insulting to your audience.