A couple of points can be quickly made about “Devil’s Due.” One is that Lindsay Devlin, the scripter of the horror flick about a newlywed who gets impregnated by the devil on her honeymoon, has obviously seen “Rosemary’s Baby” too many times. The screenplay recycles so many of the 1968 picture’s beats that it goes beyond plagiarism—or to use the Hollywood euphemism, homage. The other is that together co-directors Matt Mettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett don’t possess a fraction of Roman Polanski’s talent.
One could add, of course, that the title is too cute by half. But most importantly, it has to be noted that the picture uses the found footage tactic that’s so familiar by now that it’s no longer merely tired, it’s positively exhausted. And it even cheats in doing so. Though much what we see is supposedly taken by Zach (Zach Gilford), the husband of the expecting Samantha McCall (Allison Miller), who apparently pins a camera to his shirt so that he can film every moment of their lives, that proves insufficient to keep the plot rolling. So the dark coven that’s behind Samantha’s condition secretly installs a battery of cameras in the couple’s home, through which virtually everything else will be recorded for posterity. And even that’s not enough: at one point, when (spoiler alert!) Samantha goes out into the woods alone to gut a few deer and gobble up their innards, the action is suddenly seen through the lens of a goofy teen who just happens to be out there with his pals. Other footage is presented as being taken in a police station interrogation room. Of course we’re never told exactly who is supposed to have collected all this disparate material into its present form. Just don’t ask.
One can easily explain, however, why the filmmakers chose to go the found footage route even though they have to abuse it. Simply put, it’s a lazy device that allows you to tell your story without much concern for overall coherence or logical transitions. And it allows you to ignore infelicities in camerawork and editing that otherwise would stick out like sore thumbs.
The curious thing is that from a technical point of view, “Devil’s Due” is actually superior to most found-footage flicks. Justin Martinez’s cinematography is slicker than is usual in such fare, except of course when the cameras supposedly black out for some reason and the images take on a strobe effect. For the most part, however, although the shaky-cam syndrome is still very much in effect, it’s possible actually to tell what’s going on in the individual scenes.
The problem is that for the most part what’s going on isn’t terribly interesting, partially because Zach and Samantha aren’t characters so much as they’re bland sketches. Once we’re past their wedding and their honeymoon trip to Costa Rica—which isn’t made to look like a very good vacation destination, what with the dangerous-looking streets, the frightening fortune tellers and the pushy cab driver (Roger Payano) who takes them to an underground club where they get totally smashed and Samantha is effectively raped—they come home to find her with child. It’s not an easy pregnancy, of course, with the strange new doctor (Robert Aberdeen) who abruptly takes over for their chosen OB/GYN and the incident at their niece’s first communion, when poor Father Thomas (Sam Anderson) suffers a stroke in the middle of the service. Fortunately he doesn’t die, because though hospitalized he’s able to tell worried Zach about the early group of Christian schismatics (referenced in 1 John 2) from whom the coven responsible for Samantha’s plight are descended. Not that it helps Zach much. He tracks down the strange group that’s masterminding some hazy scheme to usher in the apocalypse by creating a passel of antichrists, but too late. Indeed, a final twist suggests that Paris is no better a honeymoon choice than Santo Domingo.
Miller and Gilford are okay at the unlucky McCalls, but neither of them is sufficiently distinctive to make you care about their plight, and the rest of the cast is no more than adequate. The effects team do a reasonably good job, particularly in the house-wrecking finale, but even in that regard the picture offers nothing we haven’t seen before.
“Devil’s Due” isn’t the worst of the low-budget horror movies that have appeared recently, nor the worst of the found-footage crowd. But it is a cheesy riff on the “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Omen” template, deserving of nothing more than rotation on the SyFy and Chiller networks.