Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Cast: Allison Miller, Zach Gilford, Sam Anderson, Robert Belushi
Running time: 89 mins
Release: January 17th
She’s glowing! they often say about pregnant women. She doesn’t literally glow, though, because that would be really spooky; what they mean is, it’s a special time and all that. Pregnancy is already disconcerting enough. Just ask your mother. Or go watch Devil’s Due, the latest little addition to the family of giving-birth-to-Satan films, the big impressive matriarch of which remains, of course, Rosemary’s Baby.
The film opens with Zach (Zach Gilford) and Sam (Alison Miller) heading off to the Dominican Republic for their honeymoon. On their last night, something strange happens, and Sam soon finds out that she’s pregnant. But how, she wonders – she’s been taking the pill “religiously”? There goes the film’s only joke. Because it looks as though Sam might be incubating the Antichrist, and things get worse by the trimester. That’s terrible, Sam! Did the weird cult do it, maybe? The one that drugged you that time?
Devil’s Due is also a ‘found footage’ horror film, that old gimmick. Who exactly does the ‘finding’ in this case is never made clear, however. The rule seems to be that anything we see must have been captured on a camera – any camera. There are: a video diary, CCTV footage, police interrogation tapes, and many more devices. No contrivance is too ludicrous. It’s easy to be cynical about the lengths these ‘found footage’ films often have to go to to simply frame the action in a manner that’s both plausible and that helps the story along. All surfaces are reflective, for example, and a GoPro is accepted as an appropriate wedding gift. And yet, this shtick happens to be the best thing about Devil’s Due. Birth is, by all accounts, very traumatic, and we’ve all been there at least once. It’s reasonable to already feel a bit uneasy about pregnancy gore in films. In this case, the vérité setup helps the relatively cheapo special effects deliver some very effective shocks. Imagine if John Hurt was a Big Brother contestant when the alien sprog made its surprising escape. The lack of non-diegetic music helps; no sonic textures to divert yourself with when you avert those eyes. Just gross sound effects pertaining to the gnashing, the stabbing, etc.
Little else has Devil’s Due to recommend it. The two leads lack the neurotic energy that would cause us to feel tense about their mounting paranoia; Zach Gilford is no John Cassavetes. The film also ends with the mother of all anti-climaxes (sorry.) What to expect when you’re expecting a good film? Distress and disappointment.