As Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s horror flick Devil’s Due begins, we open with a man, drenched in his own, dried blood, sitting in a police interrogation room, handcuffed and questioned for his part in what has obviously been a devastating set of affairs. A set of affairs the viewer then unwittingly proceeds to explore through the use of contrived found footage. Before you realise, we’ve been here before, haven’t we? This opening act is vastly similar to that of recent pictures Insidious: Chapter 2 and Sx_Tape, and even the original short movie which predated (and eventually blossomed into) the Saw franchise. This hackneyed opening act sets the precedence for a film evidently devoid of innovation and originality.
The aforementioned suspect is Zach McCall (Zach Gilford), who fervently dismisses allegations against him. We then go back in time, and recount his journey through recorded home footage, which ultimately led to his demise. We begin at his wedding with Samantha (Allison Miller), before the blissfully happy couple jet off to the Caribbean for their honeymoon. While recording the entire experience for posterity (on Zach’s button-cam), on their final evening they are taken to a secluded nightclub by an impassioned taxi driver, and it’s there they pass out and find themselves involved in a strange, satanic ritual. The next morning they have no recollection of what occurred – and when they return home, Samantha discovers she is pregnant. Though thrilled initially, worrying, demented signs begin to appear, as while Samantha’s bump enlarges, her mental state declines rapidly, as it becomes apparent that dark, sinister forces are at play.
With a narrative not too far removed from Rosemary’s Baby, it’s within the found footage elements where question marks are suitably raised in this title. It’s become something of a tired concept, and one that has been so overcooked in contemporary cinema. Fortunately the fact Zach has a consistent camera connected to his shirt means we aren’t left to continuously question why certain, intimate or threatening moments would be filmed, but it doesn’t let the filmmakers off the hook for being so unimaginative.
The opening act to this picture is actually somewhat enjoyable, and the relationship between Zach and Samantha is well-judged, with an undeniable chemistry and natural rapport between the pair. When we’re exploring the happier, genial moments in their marriage the film has a lightness to it, and is immensely easy to indulge in. However as soon as the picture becomes supernatural and takes a dark turn, the film suffers, and although this is a horror movie – and such sequences are to be expected, and ultimately, embraced – on this occasion they merely take us out of the story, not executed deftly enough.
The story is fun at times though, and remains simplistic – not attempting too much, or becoming overawed with religious or paranormal themes, staying within its means and focusing on the one key matter at hand; the pregnancy. However Devil’s Due suffers from a somewhat inexcusable predicament, in that it’s simply not scary. There are inevitably a couple of scenes that will make you jump, but for a film that’s lacking so heavily in its own unique identity, it simply must excuse for such a shortcoming, and be terrifying or suspenseful at the very least. Otherwise, to be brutally honest, why bother?