Devil’s Due is the rare horror film where, within minutes of meeting its protagonists, sympathies switch to the demonic forces that will inevitably bring them down. The shift occurs not because annoying newlyweds Samantha (Allison Miller) and Zach McCall (Zach Gilford) are bad people, but because the conceit of them appearing on camera and the quality of their footage is so awful that allegiance to the underworld becomes a natural response.
Hitting “record” whenever possible so that years later they’ll be able to look back on all the little insignificant things as well as the big moments, the McCalls make for terrible subjects and even worse cinematographers. Their video quality at home or on their fateful honeymoon to the Dominican Republic is frequently shaky and dark. Night Vision, which makes the footage look like a celebrity sex tape, doesn’t help and the price of admission sadly doesn’t include a dose of Dramamine. Furthermore, when Zach isn’t lamely drawing attention to his reasons for filming, the camera just happens to turn on when laid in Sam’s purse and conveniently catch some evil imagery.
Back in the U.S. where Sam’s sudden Rosemary’s Baby knockoff pregnancy makes for all sorts of problems, the film cheats on the handheld formula with grocery store, parking lot, and in-home surveillance footage, plus two separate handheld sources and a police interview camera. Perhaps aware that its initial approach is a flop, Devil’s Due wants the best aspects of all found-footage horror films that have come before, but the good number of unintentional laughs and absence of creepiness don’t warrant the expanded view. For an alleged scary movie, the film is a failure in the terror department, mustering three decent sound jumps, two of which are courtesy of dog barks. With more giggles than screams, the video source scramble is understandable yet doesn’t improve matters either.
Maybe nothing more should be expected from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who may have had the best chapter in the V/H/S anthology film, but whose reliance on lazy technological means suggests they’re not ready for feature-length projects. Out for maximum profits while putting in minimal effort, their work is indicative of the recent uptick in DIY horror that impedes the genre’s progress with each miserable entry. In an age where James Wan can make the impeccably crisp Insidious: Chapter 2 for $5 million and $7 million can’t buy Devil’s Due a single tripod, there’s no excuse for the latter’s trash.
Rated R for language and some bloody images.
Devil’s Due is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.