2014 - 89 minutes
Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Written by: Lindsay Devlin
Starring: Allison Miller, Zach Gilford, Sam Anderson, Roger Payano, Vanessa Ray
Whoever finds all of this footage must have a hell of time editing it. Devil’s Due takes place over 10 months of constant recording, whittled down to 90 minutes of necessary plot points. That’s a lot of mundane conversations to wade through. And if the 90 minutes presented here are the highlights, the remaining 9 months and change must be really, really terrible. This may sound like unnecessary nitpicking of a sub-genre with inherent limitations, but when the filmmakers begin with a certain method and exercise no patience with it, the necessary coverage of scenes becomes laughable. It’s a belabored effort trying to capitalize on a current trend, but not using it to great effect in an ultimately lackluster film all around, regardless of the approach.
After a telegraphed false-alarm scare to open the film, we get a hasty explanation that Zach (Zach Gilford) wants to capture every moment of his life with bride-to-be Allison (Samantha McCall). He wants their kids to be able to look back on everything, “even the stupid stuff.” No problems there.
After exchanging vows the young couple honeymoons in the Dominican Republic, allowing a sketchy cab driver to deliver them to an underground nightclub on their final night. Zach always seems to turn his head with the camera at the precise moment needed to catch strange symbols drawn on alley walls and doors. After over-imbibing, Samantha is abducted and subjected to a satanic ritual partially captured by the couple’s overturned camcorder. The newlyweds wake in their hotel the next morning with no memory of the previous night and fly back home, soon finding that Allison is pregnant despite taking her birth control religiously. Happy to start their family, the couple ignores worsening warning signs of the problematic pregnancy. Allison falls into the depths of apparent demonic possession as Zach tries to rationalize strange occurrences until the clues become too obvious to ignore.
Frustration with the characters and their story starts early on and reaches ridiculous levels with the ritual in the Dominican. This is an organized, world-wide cult who can, among other things, infiltrate hospitals and has access to unlimited resources, but they have no problem with their practices being recorded and allowing the captured footage to leave with the couple - a couple who doesn’t think to check the footage of their lost night until several months later when the plot calls for the discovery to be made.
The footage (and the checking of it) isn’t there because it makes sense for it to be there, but because we need to see it at those times in order to have all the information we need. This lazy execution extends to the camcorder of a few teens in the wrong place at the wrong time, a grocery store security camera that observes troubling behavior from Allison, an extensive network of cameras installed by the cult inside Zach and Allison’s home, and bookends from a police interrogation. And, hey, they got a GoPro as a wedding gift so Zach can record their zip-lining in the Dominican and also his infiltration of the cult’s lair later on. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, outright absurdity is another.
Just as lazy as the presentation, the scares are as standard as possible – loud noises with quick head turns and screams punctuating long stretches of silence. If there is one positive note, the integration of CGI into the home movie aesthetic is virtually seamless, with levitation, contorting faces, and cracking walls during the climax feeling organic and not overly fantastical.
The slow pace leading to finale is made up of long conversations hammering out loose characterizations, while not adding any edge or building of tension within the narrative. As with most found footage of late (including the equally abysmal Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones released a couple short weeks ago), it’s all about filling time between fleeting, spaced-out jump scares. There’s no depth providing insights into the couple’s relationship and, worse, no exploration of the cult.
Of course, there are the nonsensical non-actions of Zach, doing nothing after getting alarming information from a priest and not protecting crucial evidence. Lack of context and standard frustrations relegate Devil’s Due to a dull approximation of Rosemary’s Baby by way of Paranormal Activity. Capped, obviously, by a “shocking” (read: predictably vague and unsatisfying) end.
© 2013 by Blake Crane