Nothing will make you appreciate the various Paranormal Activity sequels more than suffering through Devil’s Due. It takes the found-footage format – already pushed past the point of exhaustion – to disturbing new lows, marrying it to the old Satan-baby notion in a non-horror horror film in which nothing much happens at all.
I’m sure the producers considered their story a “slow build,” full of suspense and foreboding about the awful fate awaiting their cute central couple. But the filmmakers don’t have the first clue how to establish a baseline for that suspense. It’s all creepy guys across the street and suspicious piles of ash on the doorstep and a home intrusion designed solely to prop up the sagging logistics necessary to sell the found footage. We’ll skip for the moment the fact that The Blair Witch Project was fifteen years ago, and the format has since been pounded into the ground with a piledriver. You can still make it work, provided you’re willing to accept the fact that anything you try has been done before. Devil’s Due doesn’t try. Not once. And the arrogance of asking us to accept that becomes an active irritant.
Naturally, our happy protagonists are afflicted with a terminal case of The Supids from the get-go, starting when they get into a strange cab during their honeymoon in Santo Domingo (and who vacations next door to Haiti anyway?) and end up in a cult ceremony in some skeevy basement somewhere. (My wife accuses me of being clueless about my surroundings; this film serves as an invaluable testament to how much worse it can get.) They don’t think much about it however – marking it off to too much tequila – until they get home and the wife (Allison Miller) realizes that she’s pregnant. Everything seems to be going fine at first. Then weird little hints arise that the baby is not what it appears to be, and that the pregnancy may bring about the kind of ludicrous end-of-days birth scene that we all presumably paid good money to see.
It doesn’t happen. Neither do we sense any urgency at the increasing signs of problems, which the husband (Zach Gilford) responds to seemingly in slow motion. Wife having sleepwalking episodes? Doctor suddenly swapped out for someone you’ve never met? Local priest spouting nosebleeds for no apparent reason? Yes, something is definitely wrong here. Something must be done… but that presumably means our hero setting down the video camera and we can’t have that. It’s the whole purpose of the movie after all.
Since the build-up never registers a pulse, the editor tries to juice things up with copious cutting, a factor that only increases our motion sickness while reminding us that nothing of interest is taking place on screen. The first half consists of mundane newlywed bullshit intended to endear us to the couple, too bland to engender any real rooting interest. It also raises awkward questions like what he does for a living that lets him afford that gorgeous house (a “fixer-upper” the lazy screenplay assures us) and follow his wife around with the camera at all hours of the day.
We keep expecting things to pick up – for The Scary to get going in earnest – but even once we realize that there’s something very, very wrong, Devil’s Due can’t convince us of the urgency of its scenario. We end up waiting for the big birth sequence, which proves just as boring as the rest of the movie. Bad enough that this film can’t engender even the basic hints of originality – it’s so derivative they may as well have named their heroine Rosemary – but to go about it with such a feckless lack of enthusiasm is unforgiveable.
We expect that in January, of course, and indeed it wouldn’t be January without a silly Satanic-based horror movie out there. Devil’s Due fulfills that dubious purpose at least, as well as reminding people just how much better the latest Paranormal Activity film looks in comparison. Beyond that, this film is nothing but a 90-minute time suck, such that even the most desperate genre fan would be hard pressed to defend. Even worse, they’ve clearly set up a sequel here, as sure a definition of hell on Earth as you’re likely to find.