Friday, February 14, 2014

Film Review: Devil's Due

Copyright: 20th Century Fox
As I watched the first few minutes of this film, I realized that the biggest horror would be if the movie continued in the same fashion as the beginning. Here we are shown private footage of Zach and Samantha, a young couple that gets married and goes to their honeymoon in the Dominican Republic.

We see them having fun, goofing around with each other and enjoying the Caribbean setting. Also, any sex they might have filmed was obviously diligently deleted, because everything they do is very PG13.

This part of the film is appallingly lifeless. Allison Miller and Zach Gilford, who play the couple lack chemistry most of the time, and seem like home schooled rigid Christians who took off their purity rings, folded their signs against abortion and same-sex marriage and started to pretend that they are spring breakers living in the moment.

Even worse is the fact that Gilford tries to present his character as that laid back guy who always has a smart remark but is still a great and caring partner. Instead he presents a preppy obnoxious jackass.

But, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin who directed the Devil’s Due, thankfully, ended this suburban horror show by introducing the scary part. On their holiday in one moment, Samantha is drugged and involved in some kind of an occult ritual. Both wake up in their hotel seemingly unaware of any shenanigans involving demon worshiping. Happily, they fly back to the States and soon find out that they are expecting a baby (implying that they knowingly had sex at least onece on their trip).

Lots of things were considered as role models by Bettinelli-Olpin when he made this film. The first part with the Dominican Republic has a little of that feel from the films like The Serpent and the Rainbow. There, people with dark skin work for Satan. After that, back home, the movie heads over towards Rosemary's Baby territory, where god-fearing white folks go to church.

All the time, found footage storytelling is employed, and diversified when stationary cameras get installed in their home. This does carry a few scary parts and interesting twists, although only visually. The general build up, as Samantha gets closer to birth, is unconvincing, as is the main protagonist. Bettinelli-Olpin tried to share the story between the two of them, but he had to decide who is the lead, and how is the backup. Any alternative would be fine in my mind, but he opted not to make this choice.

One redeeming point in the film is the lack of any explanation and rationalization that is provided to the couple and to the audience. The only part that resembles this is a short episode by a local priest who hints towards possible culprits. Besides that, the film really is presented as a collection of raw footage. But that is still only one redeeming point.

Devil’s Due real potential lies in its happy presentation of an insanely mundane life that Zach and Samantha have together. Instead of any supernatural stuff, the director should have just left the story that way, and we could watch for 90 minutes how they go through pregnancy, get a kid, and slowly build the most boring family in existence. Now that would be a really horror show.

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