Devil’s Due (2014)
★ / ★★★★
When a movie like “Devil’s Due” dares to redefine egregiousness, I wish to speak to the filmmakers personally and ask what was going through their minds while making a movie that they, in theory, should be proud of. The picture is a complete mess, lacking in discipline, holds no tension throughout, and by the time the excruciating experience is over, it left me angered—angered because I did not turn it off halfway through and do something worthwhile. Life is precious and this movie is like a cancer.
Have I yet persuaded you never to see this picture? If not, read on: Zach (Zach Gilford) and Samantha (Allison Miller) are newlyweds who spend their honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. The trip goes swimmingly until Samantha meets a palm reader who claims that her customer is “born from death” and that “they have been waiting.” Agitated and ready to go home, Samantha and her husband hail a taxi but the driver (Roger Payano) recommends that they attend an underground club instead of returning to the hotel. The couple drink and party until they black out.
One of the weaknesses of the movie is the script. The two characters are not interesting. Although Gilford and Miller do an adequate job passing as a married couple, the screenplay only requires them to emote outwardly. This is limiting especially in found footage movies because we only see what the handheld camera sees. Thus, the writer must ensure to circumvent this challenge by creating characters who are sharp, alive, and full of personality even if he or she is behind the camera or away from the frame. Otherwise, the movie might as well show nothing but paint drying.
It lacks not only discipline but also an elementary understanding of what makes a great horror film. Movies that are really scary are ace in building up a strange or bizarre scenario and continually transforming them against what the audience normally expects. This is why works like Roman Polanski’s “Rosemary Baby” has stood the test of time. It is not always about what we see on screen. Most of the time, real horror is what is in our minds. In that picture, if seen through fresh set of eyes, there is a great disparity between what we are being led to believe is happening and what is actually happening.
Here, pregnant Samantha eventually comes to exhibit telekinetic powers. Oh, and just in case they haven’t gotten the point across the first time, it happens again. And again. Are we supposed to be impressed? I wasn’t. Instead, I looked for possible answers with respect to the identities and specific motivations of the group chanting in Latin after the couple passed out from taking one shot too many.
Alas, there are none. To put the word “devil” on the title is such a lazy way to get us to expect certain things from the film when the filmmakers themselves appear to have no rudimentary understanding of what kind of story they wish to tell.
Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, “Devil’s Due” belongs at the bottom of the barrel of found footage flicks. A long period of waiting is required before it gets to the so-called scary scenes. None of them is even remotely frightening because nobody who has helmed the picture bothers to take advantage of human psychology. Instead, it assumes that the audience is stupid or has not seen very many horror movies. That is a lame and pessimistic approach; I will not stand for it and neither should you.