Let’s not beat around the bush- 2013 was a pretty terrible year for the horror genre, with James Wan’s Insidious: Chapter 2 and The Conjuring, along with the possible exception of Rob Zombie’s Lords of Salem, accounting for the bulk of the noteworthy releases. Understandably, we move into 2014 with our fingers crossed and our popcorn in hand for the first horror release of the year. Unfortunately for us all, Devil’s Due happens to be another entry into two of the most bloated and overdone horror sub-genres around: found footage, and the coming of the antichrist.
The film comes to us from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, both of whom collaborated on the 2012 horror anthology V/H/S. Allegedly, the duo had declined to take on other projects in favor of focusing on Devil’s Due, as they were intrigued with the more character-based plot. Though admirable in its own way, I can’t help but feel as though their intentions were misguided when they took on this project, mainly because Bettinelli and Gillett aren’t quite skilled enough in their craft yet (their entire filmographies consist solely of V/H/S and Devil’s Due) to turn an overdone premise into something memorable. More to the point, I don’t think that a story like Devil’s Due was ever particularly conducive to sending the audience on an emotional roller coaster in the first place.
Starring Zach Gilford and Allison Miller as newly married couple Zach and Sam McCall, the film comes in to its own a little more where the acting is concerned. Gilford and Miller have a surprising chemistry between them, and the usual groan-worthy forcedness that plague these kinds of movies isn’t really present. I can kind of see where the directors were coming from with the whole “character-based” angle, especially in the film’s early scenes, but at the same time, it’s not nearly enough to carry the entire movie on its own. On a side note, Gilford is slated to appear in the upcoming sequel to The Purge, so I’m debating whether to save his inevitable ritualistic debasement for later on or to get it out of the way now.
Before I get into the the film’s problems- of which there were many- I do have one positive thing to say about it; that is- the narrative does a great job of depicting the two leads as the smitten, happy couple before coming out and hitting the audience with the heavy stuff. Devil’s Due actually is a great example of a movie that gives the viewer a point of reference and context, so when things start to go down hill, it carries much more emotional weight because we’ve already, at least to some extent, become invested in the couple’s happiness.
Like I mentioned before, the film kind of trips right out of the gate thanks to its flawed concepts. It baffles me why anyone, at the start of 2014 no less, would choose to integrate found footage into an antichrist story. The fact of the mater is that we’ve all seen this same song and dance so many times before, and we’ve seen it done better. Theres an overwhelming stench of stagnation about the project, which is ironic because of the directors’ supposed desire to innovate.
After a certain point, Devil’s Due, like so many other horror movies, ends up losing me. Personally speaking, that point came during the last quarter of the movie when it was apparently decided that the lovely Mrs. McCall could use telekinetic powers, apropos of nothing, to sling people around left and right in the laziest excuse for jump scares I’ve seen in a while. Compounding the problem- again ironically- is the fact that the cameras selected to best capture the found footage feel of the movie are ill-suited to special effects; the same effects, I might add, on which the later half of the film relies heavily. Bettinelli and Gillett shot themselves in the foot from the word ‘go,’ and I suspect that their lack of experience was primarily to blame.
Briefly- I know I’ve rambled on for too long here- for all the posturing that was made about the story being character focused, it seems like the actual plot kind of takes a backseat during most of the movie, and instead the story seems to be told piecemeal through a series of mostly unconnected vignettes. It seems silly to think that such an emphasis was placed on character development when most of the scenes could be arranged in any order and the final product could have been of more or less the same quality.
Chances are that you know if you’ll like Devil’s Due already, and sure, there are worse ways to chew up a couple of hours. At the same time though, there are so many other, better movies that capture the spirit of this film that it isn’t really worth your time.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5