Cheating the Devil

This article will feature spoilers for Devil’s Due in a clearly marked paragraph.

Found footage movies are the worst. Not only are they shaky disasters visually, but the style is inherently counter conducive to good filmmaking. Yes, it’s easier to get under the audience’s skin and elicit those cheap scares, but you sacrifice your ability to make something unique and in the end the audience is never satisfied. Take the film Cannibal Holocaust for instance. This is a film that spent most of its running time showing the gory end of several people, and even, some actually live animals. In all that time, not a second thought was given to the overarching themes the filmmakers wanted to push to the audience.

You’re just given scene after scene of traumatizing gore. Then at the very end of the movie, some asshole in a business suit casually says, “Maybe we’re the monsters,” or some inane, cliched horseshit like that, as if that one moment suddenly makes the rest of the film into an intellectual feast. Surprise, it doesn’t (and for those of you who haven’t seen Cannibal Holocaust, don’t waste your time with that trash). Film is, primarily, a visual medium. It is the art of telling stories with rapidly flashing pictures. Using a gimmicky first person view is not original, or even that intelligent. And when someone resorts to this kind of half assed technique, we, the moviegoing public, are subjected to films like Devil’s Due.

The McCalls (Zach Gilford and Allison Miller) are a newly married, upper middle class, white, suburban, pair of stereotypes who go to a South American country for their honeymoon. On the last night, they wind up lost in a small town and hail a cab. The cabbie offers to take them to the hottest underground spot in town, and they both reluctantly agree. At the club, the two get shithoused and pass out. Later, back in the Sates, Samantha McCall realizes that she’s pregnant. Initially excited at the surprise prospect of this “uh-oh” baby, the McCalls quickly learn that it’s actually a “uh-oh-spawn-of-Beelzebub” baby and the paranormal activity (see what I did?) ensues.

Obviously, the first thing that should be popping into any self respecting horror fan’s mind is Roman Polanski’s 1968 classic, Rosemary’s Baby. Absolutely, on a base level, this is the same movie. Droning cultists? Check. Creepy rituals? Check. Erratic behavior from a pregnant lady? Check. The similarities end there however. Where Rosemary’s Baby was a well acted, well shot, and gripping thriller, Devil’s Due is a endless dirge of stupid characters desperately trying to figure out what the audience has known from minute one, as the camera focuses on their bellies.

Seriously, about half this movie is shots of people’s chins, boobs, or stomachs. Nothing is more irritating than staring at someone’s immobile torso, as a voice dictates plot elements. There was one moment in the film where I thought that having a certain character’s face off screen was a clever device. Turned out I was wrong though, and it was all purely coincidence. All of the camera movement is dictated by what would be most logical at the moment. Well our hero needs two hands for this scene, so he’ll set the camera down and angle it just right so we can see what’s happening. No. You’re not doing it right. Dammit.

As far as scares go, the are some legitimately jumpy moments through the film. Some are even executed very well. Of particular note is a scene where a young girl finds a camera and takes it with her as she searches for her hide-and-seek partner. Obviously something scary happens, but the build up to the moment was nice and slow and dripping with tension. Sadly, the rest of the scares are pretty cheap, and rely mostly on some booming sounds to supply the scares as the visuals are pretty weak.

There’s one scene in the film that was so jarring and unnecessary though, that I couldn’t help but be totally baffled by it. The scene begins with a group of teenagers who you assume to be younger versions of the main characters mucking about with a camera in a forest. It took me a moment to register that these three kids were not the main characters but just totally random characters. As the trio moves deeper into the woods, they come across the carcass of a formerly pregnant deer. The belly of the animal has been split, and blood and viscera speckle the soft green beneath the body. The kids have very stereotypical reactions. The boys are thrilled and start making jokes, and the girl is uncomfortable and scared. the trio presses on, only to find another dead deer.

This one, however, has a possessed Samantha hovering over it as she devours the fetus. The kids alert her to their presence, and one by one they get killed as she lifts their bodies into the air and slams them into the earth. At the scene’s conclusion, a limp hand hangs bloodied over a broken car windshield as the camera records on. After this scene, I couldn’t wipe the dismay from my face for the rest of the movie. What was the point of that? Samantha had already pulled some creepy mind bullet voodoo jive in the film at this point, so we know she has supernatural powers. We know that her devil spawn inside her is in control of most of her actions, and we even already saw her eat icky, yucky, raw meaty stuff when she scarfed down a whole pound of raw beef in a crowded supermarket. So what is this scene’s purpose? I came to the conclusion that the filmmakers must have just wanted an extra couple of bodies to up the stakes. What a horribly lazy thing to do.

Devil’s Due is a sad sack of a film. I’ve seen movies that were far worse in almost every department you could think of. I mean, hey, at least this movie wasn’t as brazenly racist and dumb as The Lone Ranger, right? At least it wasn’t as hokey and painful to watch as The Host. Well then, “What was it?” you might ask. Totally forgettable.