Starring : Allison Miller, Zach Gilford, Sam Anderson
Director : Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Release Date : 9 Jan 2014
Imagine The Hangover retold as a found-footage horror movie about a woman who’s pregnant with the antichrist; or maybe it’s just Mr Chow’s baby.THE evil one isn’t very fussy these days. Where previously the cinematic antichrist had to be “born” into a family like, say, that of the United States Ambassador to England, it seems as if any old setting will do now.
Not to demean the social status of Zach McCall (Zach Gilford) and his new bride Sam (Allison Miller), the protagonists of this found-footage horror movie, but hey, ultimate evil coming into the world used to be a little more covetous of a spot in the Society pages.
Come to think of it, we never really find out what it is that Zach does anyway, just that he needs to take an awful lot of time off from work to attend to his wife’s difficult pregnancy. And that ultimately, he’s pretty redundant in the whole scheme of things.
To keep both the film and its reviews spoiler-free, the filmmakers kindly provide a Bible quote (1 John 2:18) right at the very start to clue you in that this will be a movie about the antichrist coming into the world. Or many antichrists, as it tells us; although I’ve read that the actual quote refers more to the denouncers and betrayers of the early church than it is a prophecy. Still, artistic licence and all that, no?
Most of the footage that gets found (by whoever it is who finds it in such movies) is recorded by Zach, who we are told is going camera-happy because he has discovered the significance of recording memories for posterity. There’s a bit of “cheating” by sneaking in video recordings from surveillance cameras and other camcorder/smartphone-wielding folk, but mostly, it’s Zach’s chronicle.
So what does this chronicle show us? First, Zach and Sam get married. They go off to the Dominican Republic for their honeymoon; it’s a magical place – at first.
After a “lost night” of partying (there’s your Hangover connection right there, right down to the characters doing such stupid stuff they deserve whatever happens next), they head home and soon, Sam discovers she is pregnant. Terrific ... even if the kid isn’t the antichrist, he’s still going to be the Son of Sam.
Soon, it becomes apparent that something is not right with the pregnancy. For one thing Sam, a vegetarian, shovels handfuls of raw minced beef into her mouth at the supermarket (funny the surveillance video of that never gets leaked to go viral).
Then mysterious people – actually, the same cultists who engineered Sam’s pregnancy – break into their home and install hidden cameras (which, amazingly, also seem able to capture the footage of their own installation).
In the midst all this, Sam also scares the crap out of Zach’s niece and smashes in the windows of a car after the driver almost backs into her. The family priest (Lost’s Sam Anderson) becomes ... afflicted just being around her. And let’s not even talk about what happens to some kids who come across her indulging in some, er, deer hunting in the nearby woods.
Through it all, Zach is pretty helpless right up until it seems almost too late (and when he finally does decide to do something, it’s ... yep, too late). As the birth approaches, his family members appear to have mostly kept their distance and his macho buddies are suddenly absent. After he learns that cultists have been traipsing all over his house smearing it with ceremonial ash, he doesn’t even try to arm himself. And in one ludicrous scene, he trails them to their lair without so much as a baseball bat in hand! And when he gets the chance to turn some of them into roadkill, he ... stops the car and gets out demanding to know what they want. Dude, useless much?
But Zach is just typical of the worst of the found-footage sub-genre, a central figure who is deliberately kept dumb as a post so that the story can move along. It’s not as if all this happened in just 80 minutes; the doofus had close to nine months to figure out/do something, for crying out loud. The family must also have the only non-hellspawned dog in the (movie) world that’s unable to sense something is totally wrong with the foetus in its mistress’ womb. Guess it’s true about how the clueless congregate, since these movies have such large populations of them.
Devil’s Due does have some bursts of excitement, in fact I thought it had more paranormal activity than the generally static Paranormal Activity, which on its own could have given rise to a new sub-genre, the found-postcard movie. But a few startling moments don’t make up for silly and ineffectual characters, the improbable story development, and the general feeling that nothing is happening, something that has always bothered me about the found-footage film.
The fact people are still making this sort of film shows that the sub-genre is still kicking but it’s long overdue for a contraction. It has left some pretty obvious stretch marks on moviegoers’ patience and credulity, and we need a bit of Vitamin E, for “enough”.