Devil’s Due (2014)

Pitching itself as a modern Rosemary’s Baby for the Paranormal Activity generation, Devil’s Due is unlikely to thrill, chill or spook even the most easily scared moviegoer, thanks to a dull premise, dreadful pacing and not nearly enough scares. And naturally, because this is the year 2014, it is of course presented to us as found footage.

Allison Miller and Zach Gilford play young newlyweds Samantha and Zach who, for reasons over-explained in useless exposition, feel the need to record each and every moment of their new lives together. While on honeymoon, they are led astray by a dodgy taxi driver and, after drinking themselves into oblivion in an underground club, Samantha finds herself pregnant. This is in spite of never missing a Pill, something that is explained away by a doctor in a moment that is trotted out whenever things seem a bit off (which is a lot). It soon becomes clear that all is not right, and as Samantha’s condition gradually worsens, Zach finds himself unable to do anything to help. After watching footage of their honeymoon, he realises that something sinister is afoot, but by that stage, it’s too late.

Devil’s Due is a frustrating entry into the horror pantheon – not least because it’s only the second genre release of the year, after the dreadful Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. It’s courtesy of the guys behind one of the strongest entries to V/H/S, “10/31/98”, a haunted house-style piece involving overly curious friends stumbling across some sort of Satanic ritual, in which the potential for directors Bettenelli-Olpin and Gillett to make something great was evident. Why, then, is this the best they could come up with?

Devil’s Due isn’t just an ineffective horror film – it’s also lazy, derivative, badly written, badly directed and very, very boring. There are long stretches of time when nothing actually happens, and although the mundane, everyday elements of life are supposed to be what make the moments of terror so shocking, there so few of those that, as a result, the premise doesn’t really amount to much, even in the final moments of carnage.

The format is troublesome, also, especially as there is absolutely no reason for the film to be presented as found footage. It adds nothing, and there is not one original trick employed to elicit scares with it, either. For the most part, it’s the usual business with the camera panning sideways until something scary pops up, which would be fine if we hadn’t seen it a million times before, and better.

Although Miller and Gilford are likeable screen presences, their protagonists are distractingly stupid. Zach doesn’t watch the honeymoon footage for quite some time after the fact, and then loses it along with all of the evidence. Likewise, he consults an obviously odd doctor for advice and doesn’t think to check his credentials, or seek a second opinion. Every single decision that is made is nonsensical, and serves only to move the plot along, which is irritating, because let’s face it, we all know where this is going.

The conception and birth of the Antichrist was dealt with last year in Rob Zombie’s triumphant The Lords Of Salem, and in the case of that film, not only were the crucial moments themselves much better handled, but the atmosphere was creepy, intense and disturbing. Devil’s Due wastes the opportunity, along with many others, to present frightening footage of Samantha being impregnated, and simply leaves her to lay on the floor while her dress blows up a little bit. This may be an effort on the filmmakers’ part to achieve the highly-coveted 15A certificate, but it robs the film of any scare appeal and, crucially, any tension.

There are a few decent visuals – in particular a sequence in a church, during which a priest’s nose starts bleeding profusely before he passes out – but many of the effects are dulled by blurry CGI and bad camera angles. Several cameras are set up in the couple’s house, by the Satanists, which offer a little more space for the found footage angle, but it takes more than a slight suspension of disbelief to understand why, all of a sudden, the feed is coming from a different angle, and a different camera, instead of Zach’s handheld, which was in use only moments before.

Devil’s Due is a disappointing effort from the guys behind one of the strongest segments in V/H/S and it is only for found footage junkies, who cannot get their kicks unless someone is popping out to scream at the camera in an otherwise pitch black room. Otherwise, avoid like the plague and hope this format is finally on its way out (following the next Paranormal Activity addition, due later this year, of course).

Rating: ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

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