Now here’s a grizzly little piece of found footage cinema. I’ll get right to the point: Devil’s Due is vile; ugly and brutal. I’ve read that Eli Roth is religiously defending the film and calling it genius but no doubt he had to jump through some strenuous mental hoops of his own devising in order to define this movie’s meanness and despair as style; vision or insightful commentary. Make no mistake, this film comments on little and does nothing beyond creating a maelstrom of CGI and geek showiness.
Returning from a honeymoon in the Dominican Republic, a newlywed couple discover they are pregnant earlier than expected but it becomes evident that this bun in the oven could be a really bad cookie.
If you liked Paranormal Activity then you better check that the makers of Devil’s Due aren’t already in your pockets. It’s a cheap imitation and will appeal only to a VERY forgiving audience.
The Bottom Line
I won’t get into what a day-light robbery this movie is of Paranormal Activity because it’s more than obvious from the get-go but what is important to consider is that this film thinks it’s achieved something whilst getting the fundamentals completely wrong. The directors of Devil’s Due have defended the lack of explanation as to who compiled the footage by saying they “don’t want to pull wool over the audience’s eyes.” They forget that when you walked into Cloverfield or Paranormal Activity you didn’t actually believe what you were seeing were true events. What you wanted was the illusion of true events and that is what all filmmaking is about anyway. If you don’t suspend the audience’s disbelief within the first few minutes, you don’t have them for the ride and can’t possibly expect them to take the film seriously. Not only does the film not explain how it came to be, but there are perspectives that make absolutely no sense – how did the person who is filming at this moment get hold of this particular camera and why are they shooting this anyway?
What is explained is that a couple are about to get married and hubby seems to want to record every second of their lives together. Nothing new, nothing earth-shattering. He captures their honeymoon and their subsequent kidnapping of which they are not initially aware and wake up the next morning with a hangover, not realising they were privy to a satanic ritual. As the film unfolds, hubby slowly captures the unfolding unholy pregnancy of his wife and the not so subtle changes she is going through. Apparently Satan cannot be born in a normal manner and has to come into the world making a lot of noise with kitchen utensils. None of this is actually scary in a useful sense because it’s all derivative and the filmmakers know it. Instead they barrage you with cracking walls and a lot of unholy screams and belly cutting. They need to remind you that you’re actually watching a horror.
Forgive my cinematic orthodoxy but Rosemary’s Baby was made in 1968 and not only achieved with minimal effects what this film is desperately attempting, but is as potent today as it was back then. Rosemary’s harrowing and paranoid pregnancy was so effective because Polanski twisted and perverted a seemingly beautiful and innocent stage in a woman’s life and turned it into something altogether threatening and at times, slightly humorous. The antagonists weren’t from some stereotypical third world country; they were your kooky, but ultimately incredibly deranged neighbours and your disgustingly self-absorbed family. Ultimately the film made its audience recoil in horror when Polanski revealed his cinematic coup de grâce – a mother’s love is unconditional, even if it includes the Lord of Darkness. The film was made with grace and joy and the horror was something you couldn’t put down because it affected not only your senses, but challenged what you thought was okay and safe.
There are films that revel in gore and despondence and I’ve considered many to be utterly sublime and brilliant. Antichrist; Inside; Battle Royale; The Exorcist come to mind as films that leave one feeling harrowed and emotionally devastated but there is a way to defend those movies and many others like it. The material was redeemed, justified, illustrated and explained by style. There is no worthy or defensible purpose in Devil’s Due – the filmmakers want to cause disgust and hopelessness in the audience. Ugly emotions are easier to evoke and often more commercial than those that contribute to the on-going lives of the beholders. Do yourself a favour, and avoid this trash this long weekend. Spend your money on a film made by people who respect your intelligence and your time.