The movie I wanted to see this week was Devil’s Knot – the fictionalization of the West Memphis Three story. But the only new movie we got was I, Frankenstein. In keeping with my New Year’s Resolution to see more bad movies on Scene points, I presented myself for the Saturday matinee. Fate decided to step in and save me by canceling the showing, so I asked for a ticket to whichever of last week’s movies started next. It turned out to be Devil’s Due.
A young couple who were kidnapped on their honeymoon return home pregnant with a fetus that causes terrible things to happen.
I like horror movies but I preach moderation in the showing of monsters and blood because absence and expectation make for more tension and scariness. Devil’s Due showed a lot of restraint in that department… too much, unfortunately. It crossed the line between tense and boring.
The movie begins in a police interrogation room, where a bloody, dejected Discount Dean Winchester named Zach McCall (Zach Gilford) insists that no, he did not kill his wife. This is a mistake, because not only does it tell us that Discount Dean survives the movie, it also tells us that his wife doesn’t, so any tension they try to build in that regard is already defused.
Wait, we’re confused. Is Sam your wife or your brother?
Flash backward ten months or so and Zach is getting ready to marry Sam (Allison Miller)… by sneaking into her bedroom with a video camera like a peeping serial killer. Since Sam’s childhood is ‘all a blank’ (what?) Zach wants to document their every moment together so they don’t forget any of it. At which point the movie proceeds to hop skip and jump through the things that people would actually WANT to remember (wedding, reception, honeymoon).
ZACH: I love you so much!
SAM: I love YOU so much!
MOVIE: Blah blah. Where are the demons?
The narrative only settles down once their naïve credulity gets them in trouble on the last day of their honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. While wandering around the sketchiest part of Santo Domingo in the dead of night, Zach and Sam jump into a gypsy cab and let it take them to a (literally) underground club in the middle of nowhere. Unsurprisingly, the patrons drug them and take advantage of them – not by stealing their money, but by performing some strange ceremony on them.
Which their camcorder captures in full, naturally.
When they return home they discover that Sam is pregnant. Which is great! Yay! Except for the fact that it’s making Sam act a little weird. And there are people hanging around their house. But because the cast is so small, there are no superfluous characters to maim/kill to create tension and things can’t get so weird that Zach would feel the need to call in an army of psychiatrists and priests.
What? No. I’m totally decorating the baby’s room with Navajo peace symbols. Duh.
So almost nothing happens for most of the movie, and it’s boring. At least until the end, when the movie takes a sudden flying leap over the line between ‘huh, that’s weird’ and ‘Oh Jesus, oh Jesus, telekinesis blood stabbing cult WTF.’ The shift is so jarring that it’s silly rather than scary.
Dance! Dance for your life!
This is a waste of the two main actors, because whatever the rest of the movie’s problems, I thought they did a great job of acting like a normal couple dorkily hamming up their home videos for the benefit of their future child.
Hey Mommy! Say hi to the baby… who is not at all the anti-christ!
And can I just say – I am so over the whole found footage thing. Using found footage means jumping through hoops to explain where all the tape is coming from. Or, you know, not explaining it, in the case of Devil’s Due. There’s Zach’s footage, store security videos, police interrogation tape, and spy cams installed all over their house by stalkers, but no explanation as to who collected and edited all the footage together or why.
I sense… that you are in a horror movie.
The contortions are so obvious and the perspective has to be broken so often that they might as well just give up and have a main character called Johnny Camera-Face like they do in video games. As things get crazier and crazier it becomes increasingly difficult to justify why Zach is still hauling his video camera around everywhere.
Oh yes, it’s much easier to search for intruders through the tiny, grainy lens of my 1995 camcorder.
So even if you like horror movies (and found footage films in particular) I can’t in good conscience recommend Devil’s Due to you. The acting is good and it’s not too in-your-face, but there’s just not enough happening to generate the kind of tension you need to work yourself into a lather over whether there’s anything hiding in the dark corners of your closets (or belly).