The horror genre has a rich history of low budget knock offs exploiting a popular trend, even more pronounced than typical Hollywood groupthink. Whether vampires, zombies, slashers, animal attacks, or found footage, if there’s a way to make a cheap horror film, there’s seemingly a million independent producers who think themselves as David O. Selznick-types ready to produce the next piece of profitable schlock when, in fact, they’re more reminiscent of Trent L. Strauss. Carrying on with tradition is Devil’s Due, a low budget found footage knock off in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby without scares, humor, or simple cinematic competence.
Following their wedding, a pretty, happy young couple, Samantha (Allison Miller) and Jack (Zach Gilford), travel to the Dominican Republic for their honeymoon. On their last evening on the island, they see a creepy, ominous psychic who freaks out Samantha. Following this harrowing experience which is never given any further depth, the couple gets into the taxi cab where the driver (Roger Payano) promises to take them to a fun night club. In the night club Jack keeps his camera rolling as the couple downs shot after shot of some booze before they decide to turn the camera off. Then the camera miraculously goes in and out giving us a brief glimpse of some vague satanic ritual. The next morning, the happy and hungover couple fly home. Shortly after their arrival, Samantha learns that she is pregnant. This is shocking because she “religiously” takes the pill. Before long her pregnancy takes a turn for the weird. Violent mood swings, eating raw meat, and animal mutilation become her hobbies. As Jack searches for answers as to his wife’s deterioration, their house is bugged by the mysterious members of the satanic cult. All of this culminates in Samantha giving herself a bloody Caesarean while Jack watches. The Satanists get the baby as Jack faces law enforcement.
The onslaught of current found footage films derive from the family tree of The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, though those films were pre-dated by the legendary Cannibal Holocaust. When done poorly, as it often is, it can be an infuriating cinematic experience as is the case with Devil’s Due. Even though there’s a scene where the characters explain why they’re filming everything, it still doesn’t make sense in most instances. Or to be more accurate, it doesn’t make sense why the filmmakers leave these shots in. Who really needs to see scenes of feet walking to a door step or feet walking through a field? But they even include security footage from a parking when nothing of any interest happens.
While found footage is often used as a way to cover up budget limitations, the style also becomes a form of creative limitation as well. Since everything presented on-screen needs to have a source, it becomes nearly impossible to offer parallel storylines or anything cinematic. The style just becomes an excuse to have crummy characters, shitty editing, non-existent pacing, and amateur cinematography. Even with its derivative premise, if Devil’s Due was presented like an actual movie, it possibly wouldn’t be so bad. It’s not like the first Evil Dead is hailed as a classic for its original premise, everything is in Raimi’s cinematic bravado.
Devil’s Due is so dismal because it lacks suspense and payoffs. There’s no further information on the satanic cult. None of their motivations or beliefs are mentioned. What does this so-called anti-Christ supposed to usher in? Pregnant Samantha apparently gains some kind of Carrie-like powers, but they’re never explained at all. When Samantha starts going full-on Carrie the film cuts away, robbing the audience of any violent payoff. By opening the film with Jack being interrogated in the aftermath, it gives us the information that, no matter what happens, Jack survives.
Directed by the team of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, working from a script by Lindsay Devlin, Devil’s Due lacks anything resembling wit, heart, intrigue, fright, humor, or imagination. Only in one particular instance did the film even elicit laugh, albeit unintentional. During the First Communion of some random child character, the priest coughs blood before collapsing in the middle of his sermon. Good times. But this troupe of filmmakers got their start making clever shorts on YouTube. Perhaps that’s where their talents are best served – in 3-minute videos.
Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Movies are real life with the boring parts cut out.” That is, unless it’s a found footage movie. Devil’s Due proves that found footage genre is nothing more than making a movie based upon the boring home movies of your boring relatives. When compared to Devil’s Due, there is no greater terror than the video of Aunt Tina’s vacation to Idaho.