I can’t say if Devil’s Due was simply boring or if horror has been so inundated with domestic-possession found footage horror films, it has gotten impossible to become enthralled by them. We’ve grown so accustomed to all the tropes and tricks of handheld home video horror, the scares simply don’t land and the suspense never manifests — much like the monsters tend to remain unseen for the majority of these films, but we do get to watch twenty minutes of honeymoon footage. I mean, if the camera still can’t focus when the good parts finally happen, how can we be expected to either? And Devil’s Due, despite not being terrible, doesn’t bring much of anything new to the exhausted found footage medium. It’s just too little, too late.
Opening with a biblical quote spelling out the coming of the antichrist and an unnecessary glimpse at a character being questioned by the police following the events of the film, Devil’s Due then launches into the story of Zach (Zach Gilford) and Samantha (Allison Miller), from their wedding, through the honeymoon, to discovering that Samantha is pregnant. Yet a few unaccounted for hours during their vacation are hinted at to the audience via flashes on their video camera; Samantha has been drugged and used as the subject in some sort of cult ritual. And now she’s convinced there’s something wrong with her baby, and bizarre occurrences are only backing up her suspicions. It’s hard to not start throwing Rosemary’s Baby comparisons around, but the filmmakers clearly are aware how referential the material is.
The film was scripted by Lindsay Devlin, and directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, two of the four members of the filmmaking group known as Radio Silence. The other two Radio Silence members, Chad Villella and Justin Martinez, filling executive producer roles, with Martinez also as the director of photography.
Full disclosure: few films of this ilk have worked for me. I never really got the Paranormal Activity franchise, and Devil’s Due is essentially Paranormal Activity 6. A supernatural force is inserted into an absolutely mundane scenario that is being documented by an archive-obsessed friend or family member. The character development is never richer than what you would capture on a home video, and I don’t know if that’s a dedication to realism, a lack of creativity, or an attempt to remain lowest common denominator in the storytelling. The cinematography is always akin to what you would see on a home video — same questions. Can someone tell me why no one ever has a haunted Steadicam?
It’s hard for me to review Devil’s Due without simply reviewing its genre as it’s so cookie-cutter. This is a huge disappointment, as Radio Silence proved themselves to be extremely talented working in the found footage style from their segment in the first V/H/S film. What happened? Was it the daunting task of creating a feature-length theatrical release instead of a ten minute short? Was it the big studio backing and influence? Who knows. Yet, there isn’t really anything distinctly awful about the film. It’s not poorly made; it’s got a few exciting moments, a couple fun scenes, and the acting is actually better than you’d expect. The filmmaking is passable. It’s hard to condemn the film, as there’s nothing to do so for except its mediocrity. Still, I simply cannot recommend it to anyone who isn’t thrilled with every found footage movie they watch.
I think the movie’s biggest downfall was that the animatronic baby featured in their publicity stunt isn’t the main character. Because, really, an hour and a half of home videos starring a family trying to care for their screaming, vomiting, animatronic baby antichrist is all this writer wants from a movie. Can I get an amen?