Devil's Due (2014) - Going into this film I had all kinds of reservations, first I had just finished watching and writing about Rosemary's Baby and lets face it every Satan baby film will pale compared with that. Second I made the mistake of hearing about this film before going into it. I knew basically what it was about and I also heard it was a "alternative footage" film. This last thing ending up being the most problematic part of the experience. Normally avoiding seeing and "found (alternative) footage" film in the theater because lets face it, the quality of the filming is poor. This method leaves the audience looking at shaky poorly framed scenes, that are stunted and often poorly written. Instead of allowing the audience to relax and enjoy the well written characters in a flowing stream of scenes, we are subject to a collection of clips that with a bit of skill tell a story. The character development and story suffer because the audience unfortunately has to fight to understand the camera angles. Then there is the whole explanation of why the filming is happening at all. I am not saying that all alternative video films don't work. I am saying that it is very easy to fail if the footage does not make sense. While trying to save money pretending the film is taken from in life sources, you create the need to explain why the film has been put together and by who.
A good example of this is The Bay(2012). No matter your opinion of the film itself, it does alternative footage right. Donna (Kether Donohue) has put the film together from a variety of sources as a way to get word out about an environmental incident that was being covered up by the Government. So there is a person who assembles the clips and is responsible for presenting them to us the audience.
In the case of Devil's Due it was simply infuriating. Presented as a film but just with alternative sources but cut like a film some of the time, switching POV to suit directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett but without the edifice that this film was put together by someone within the film.
The film starts with a biblical quote, 1 John 2:18 which leads the viewer to think this is a film not an alternative footage film, but that idea is immediately dispelled.
"Little children, it is the last hour, and as ye heard that antichrist cometh, even now have there arisen many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last hour."
The story of why the primary footage is being filmed is given right from the start. Zack McCall (Zach Gilford) says that his father used to film everything and he now that he is getting married to Samantha (Allison Miller) he finds the idea very nostalgic. Unfortunately for us in the audience Zach starts all of his videos with the camera pointing at peoples feet. He also videos everything, and obviously does not know the pain of editing video. So we get to see lots of doors as they open, people as they walk away and shoes. Of course it is needed to tell the story but it is not how people use video recording. An example that shows the good and bad of the process happens early in the film. Zach is recording them partying in Santa Domingo on their honeymoon and at some point they wander off the beaten track and get lost.
Well Zach keeps video rolling as they try to figure out where the hell they are. I am sure this would never happen. One because batteries run out and two because when we get nervous or scared we stop doing extraneous thing and focus in on the problem at hand. Where it works is when they are rescued by a cabbie who then convinces them to go to an underground party. Because Zach is filming this part we get to see just how drunk they get and also when they pass out that they are carried to a chamber filled with candles. On the floor Samantha (Sam) is laid in a circle like image drawn on the floor alter. When the chanting and strange glowing come we know that we are in a world where magic actually exists. Captured by Zachs camera he will not see this footage for some months but we already know that when Sam takes her pregnancy test that she is carrying Satan's baby.
What I have written so far is just the beginning of the annoying filming that would never happen. After the couple comes home Zach just happens to be filming when Sam comes downstairs to tell him she is pregnant. Why? What important life moment was he filming. None that's what, but the filmmakers wanted us to see a scene where she tells him she is pregnant so he just happens to be filming. This is the kind of thing that makes me angry, the alternative footage was needed for the story so we are subject to it for no other reason. When people in the story film it has to be for a reason not because the director needs the scene. insulting the audience further, fucking Zach films in the doctor's office when they head in for the ultrasound. Now sane people would do a small video after the visit explaining to the unborn child the visit and maybe showing the image capture from the ultrasound but no since later there will be a surprise doctor switch we have to see the visit. Again the need for the scene outweighs common sense.
It gets even worse, Zach apparently has unlimited battery life on his two cameras because he films fucking everything. The required night vision shots, one scary one where Sam opens her eyes and grabs his arm but you just can't by the amount of useless filming he does. He sees people watching the house and happens so we see that and later when chasing people watching the house he is filming. It makes no kind of sense that he would film while going out to chase someone. Again in stressful times we are not going to be thinking about getting it on tape. Then there are the added sources of video added to the film. Well who the fuck put this story together so that without explanation we see clips from security cameras in a supermarket. Again the story called for us to see how Sam is changing, a vegetarian suddenly craving meat so much that she eats it raw in the store. Why are we seeing it though it does not fit the premise established to this point.
When the cult wants to check up on the development of the Antichrist we see them as they turn on the 16 or so cameras they have hidden in the McCall's home. Perfect for the directors of the film because it will make the telling of the rest of the story so much easier. We can see Sam as she suffers mood swings, bouts of anger and creepy trances. We see her worry more clearly and understand that she starts believing things are not going well. Of course the audience has to wonder how these clips get into the movie, FUCK! the whole alternative footage premise does not work in this film without an knowing how they got into the movie. Like later when the coolest part of the film takes place, we shift to video from some teens down by the river again how did it get into the film? They come across a dead deer and then notice a creepy Sam digging into another deer a little ways away. They die in a very cool supernatural way that would have been even more awesome if shot like a real film. Still the three death are pretty damn sweet.
In the end the story written by Lindsay Devlin is okay, we are not breaking a lot of new ground but certainly the story arcs of our two main characters are well defined. Sam a new wife is impregnated with the Antichrist while on her honeymoon does not know it and nor does she particularly want to be in that condition while trying to finish graduate school. Her story is a story of physical and emotional changes as her baby grows. Actress Allison Miller is competent in the role that calls for her to display a fairly wide range of emotion. Zach plays the male lead as an average loving guy. Not particularly macho but not afraid when the need is present to push forward into danger. He goes from enthusiastic father to be, to a man trying to save his family from an unbelievable evil. The story of the effects of the devil baby growing inside an unsuspecting women is interesting enough also so it is a shame that the film was framed in a way that really ruined it. This story made as a film and with a killer score could have been a very excellent film.
The worst insult of all as a viewer is the bookend scenes that surround the McCall's story. The shame of the film is that the story could have been so much more creepy but the film design took so much of the mood away from it. I can't even remember if I heard a score. Interrogation footage from a police station with Zach as the main suspect in a couple of hideous murders. What they do is pretend that Zach is recounting all that went on for the police. Well then why the fuck was the whole film alternative footage then? Did Zach recall it from video clips. What the fuck?!
This is all about money in the end which means that the seven million dollar budget was more important than good film making. Since they made 9 million in the first weekend the makers are probably going to make a profit if word of mouth does not kill attendance. Its a shame because I see what was done here as a really cynical approach to horror. It does not care about the audience and seems only to care about the bottom line without regard to what would tell the story best. So I am not recommending this film in fact I encourage you to only view pirated copies.