Devils dueDevil’s Due

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olphin and Tyler Gillett

Davis Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox

Reviewed by Matthew Tait

It seems that everywhere we look nowadays a ‘footage’ film is being churned out somewhere. Whether you love or hate this distinct milieu (shaky camera work and naturalistic acting) – it matters little in today’s horror climate, because they are certainly here to stay. Not only are such films inexpensive, they consistently make a truck load of money. While some are almost accomplished works of art (REC), others fall so far below the paradigm of what constitutes effective film-making they should be regulated to the annals of direct-to-video cannon in perpetuity. When it was announced a while back that a ‘found footage take’ on Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen was in the offing (and that directors from a segment of the film VHS had been acquired for helming duties), one could almost envision the result without viewing a single frame.

Recently married young Americans Samantha and Zach McCall are going on a honeymoon. Their destination: the Dominican Republic. One night, after getting waylaid returning back to their motel, an assertive cab driver seduces them into trying out an underground bar … one presumably not located on any maps. After experiencing this somewhat taboo club, the footage then shifts to jerky scenes evocative of dark worship; the chanting and supplications of a cult satanic in nature. The next morning (and with no memory of the jaunt home), both Samantha and Zach fly home to the United States. Not long after – despite being religious about birth control – Samantha falls pregnant. And thus begins a lacklustre and derivative premise.

What follows is everything you would expect when giving birth to Satan: Samantha experiences nosebleeds, fugue states, and a bourgeoning disdain for her new hubby. Previously a vegetarian, raw meat is suddenly on the menu. (Even of the variety consumed in public supermarket aisles). On the street outside the McCall’s home, sinister and shady characters make a habit of loitering around the premises. Though the territory here is well mapped, there are (of course) small and quiet moments of tangible merit. In this found footage era, jump scares are ubiquitous, and the viewer will find an occasional one that works. What doesn’t work is mining the techniques of others, even going so far as to mimic recent outings like Chronicle. In this regard, the makers have turned homage into a banal science.

Other virtues of the film? There aren’t many – though our lead actor (Allison Miller) does a more than competent job with what’s on offer, eliciting creepy stares spliced with her genuine girl-next-door persona. Another positive would be the film’s overall modernity: mainstream releases in 2014 are all going to have a polished sheen, regardless of budget constraints. And, toward the climax, there are more than a few effective special effect sequences.

But sadly these aren’t enough to atone for Devil’s Due overall blandness – eight-nine minutes of home video that is (at times) insipid viewing for all.

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