Devil’s Due? More like Devil’s DON’T! NAILED IT!
Sorry folks, this is what happens when I start writing reviews at 3AM after a midnight premiere, bad jokes and salty attitudes, but I’m more disappointed in the fact that I wanted to love Devil’s Due so much more than I did. If you forced me to place a bet on the best January “found footage” release, between this and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, I would have doubled down on Radio Silence’s satanic baby mama drama in a heartbeat – and I also would have been a very poor film critic. Visually stunning yet hollow at its core, Devil’s Due delivers true moments of excitement, but never a real, solid, horrifying scare – which is kind of crucial for horror films these days.
Zach (Zach Gilford) and Samantha McCall (Allison Miller) are two newlyweds deeply in love, sharing a romantic honeymoon together in a foreign paradise. While wandering the streets late one night, the two end up in a cab being driven by a overly friendly cabbie who insists on taking them to a hopping party. Reluctantly agreeing, Allison gives in and the two end up drinking entirely too much at an underground rave of sorts, turning the camera off, and waking up with the worst hangovers ever. A short time later Allison discovers she’s pregnant, but as her stages progress, more and more obscurities start to happen. Zach knows Allison isn’t herself, so our heroic husband attempts to uncover Allison’s condition before it’s too late – but that window may have already passed.
On an aesthetic level, directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett harken back to their V/H/S days and once again create a visually pleasing display of camera trickery and low-budget destruction that could pass for big-budget thrills. As Samantha’s pregnancy continues to progress, her demonic side starts taking over more and more, which causes death, chaos, and plenty of flying doors. There’s one particular scene that displays our young director’s talents, as the camera man is lifted many feet into the air through Samantha’s evil powers, and he’s slammed down against a car which crushes under the sheer force of this satanic bodyslam – which we see through his point of view. The format is “found footage,” so we feel as if we’re the ones being thrown into the air and cracked down like a rubber band, entering you into the moment. The Radio Silence guys showed a knack for this enveloped filmmaking last time around, and Devil’s Due is no different – except they didn’t write it.
I truly believe Devil’s Due would have been in better hands had our directors also served as writers, because Lindsay Devlin’s script didn’t get a single rise out of me. Her introduction establishes cult-worshiping and devil birthing horror awaits eager viewers, but an entirely too drawn out middle portion reveals little action, plenty of jabbering, and typical “found footage” tropes that seem lazy instead of progressive. When we finally reach Samantha’s mommy climax, we’re then treated to a finale that doesn’t properly exploit such a topic with endless potential, going out in a rather pedestrian, underwhelming, and absolutely scareless manner. The promise of a demon baby and the antichrist’s ravaging of humanity is teased ever so gently, and with so many darkly mysterious events happening around Samantha and Zach, it’s a damn shame more horror insanity isn’t called upon.
As for our apocalypse-insighting couple, there are times when chemistry remains spot on, while others felt goofy and a little hammed up. Replicating the mood of a typical family’s cheesy vacation home videos, Zach Gilford starts to show the comedic transformation into lame dad mode, which is fine and dandy in small doses, but during that excruciatingly overplayed middle chunk where we just watch some surveillance camera footage of a couple being duped into thinking pregnancy grants women super strength, said comedy grows tiresome, and informational negligence becomes overwhelming. Oh pregnant women, always carving heretic symbols into wood floors and tormenting priests – you know, the usual!
Sadly, Allison Miller never really gets to shine as the Devil’s baby mama, as her possession never fully takes over. I would have loved to see the makeup department have a little more fun with Samantha as she approached her final term, but in keeping with a tamer horror script that offers no real jolts, or even true jump scares, Miller’s role is a bit too bland to be evil, with the scariest moments only being delivered through blurry night vision feeds restricting visibility, because apparently everything is scarier in a certain shade of green (Incubus reference without even trying!).
Devil’s Due certainly has its heart in the right place, and for some viewers, the cult madness may be enough to get the blood pumping, but as someone who’s seen numerous “found footage” clones grace the horror genre, very few moments separate Samantha’s hellish pregnancy experience from countless other eerily similar films. The only redeeming factor here is steadfast direction from Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who show tremendous promise for team Radio Silence. Next time though, I’d love to see them tackle a feature from their own thinktank, because their simple V/H/S segment has ten times the personality, intensity, and twisted entertainment that this film does. When it comes down to it though, there’s so much ripe potential here and that’s what really makes Devil’s Due even more of a lacklustre disappointment.
With a weak finish that doesn't exactly live up to the suggested satanic baby mama drama, Devil's Due will leave hardcore genre fans yearning for much more "bite," as even the "bark" is a tad bit weak.