Letter From The Editor - Issue 58 - August 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
At The Picture Show
January 2014

Devil's Due

Abort! Abort! Abort!

The devil's about to be a proud papa once again in the instantly forgettable 'Devil's Due'

Devil's Due
20th Century Fox
Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Screenplay: Lindsay Devlin
Starring: Zach Gilford, Allison Miller, Sam Anderson, Vanessa Ray, Roger Payano and Geraldine Singer
Rated R / 1 hour, 29 minutes
January 17, 2014
(out of four)

It's lucky for the devil that, whenever he happens to be in the mood to procreate and unleash an antichrist on the world, he always seems to find a couple more than willing to bring the little hellspawn to term. Has he done polling to ensure he finds the human vessel least likely to terminate the pregnancy? I assume he has a crack research team. Look, I'm not advocating anything, I'm just saying - if the expectant couple in any given Devil Fetus movie were to just decide they weren't ready to be parents, we might be able to avoid the possibility of the apocalypse happening. For what it's worth.

But no, as usual, the unsuspecting parents-to-be in Devil's Due - newlyweds Zach and Samantha McCall (Zach Gilford and Allison Miller) - are more than happy to be pregnant. Poor bastards have no idea the bastard they've got waiting for them nine months later.

Devil-themed horror movies are practically an annual rite this time of year, right up there with the Mediocre Mark Wahlberg Action Thriller (sadly missing this year), the Disastrous High-Concept 3D Fantasy Epic, and the Whoops We Thought This Movie Was Going to Be an Oscar Contender. The devil subgenre falls into two (and only two) categories - the possession / exorcism movie, and the devil fetus movie. This one, obviously, is the latter, and as these movies go it's not terrible - merely forgettable.

Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett give us the added pleasure of doing the found-footage thing with this one, so that we see the whole progression of the pregnancy in poorly framed DV. As with most attempts at this format, it's used mostly without purpose, occasionally illogically, but I'll give the co-directors credit for a couple of scenes that work like a charm. Like the majority of the best found-footage scenes, the most effective scenes in Devil's Due utilize the perspective of the character holding the camera. Usually, we just get standard handheld shots from a point of view that, in and of itself, isn't important. But when we're seeing the point of view of someone as he's getting launched into the sky by a supernatural force of nature? Yeah, that has effect. The view itself becomes relevant - and, momentarily at least, thrilling.

The other strong sequence comes near the end, as the pending birth of the devil's progeny has thrown everyone's lives into pulpy madness. It allows Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett - from the filmmaking troupe Radio Silence - to show off their feel for wild horror-movie chaos and special effects, in much the same way they did with 10/31/98, the closing short (and easily the best of the bunch) in the 2012 anthology film V/H/S.

But the highs of Devil's Due hardly make up for the rest of this largely perfunctory and all-too-familiar entry in this well-worn subgenre. Zach and Samantha get married, go to the Dominican Republic for their honeymoon, and accidentally get ushered into an underground Satanic sex chamber for the bedding ceremony. That last part happens without their knowledge, of course, as they wake up back in their hotel room without any memory of the key details of the previous night. (Hangovers, amirite?) Oh, and the camcorder - which had been turned off earlier in the night - mysteriously and conveniently turns itself back on just long enough for us to get a look at the action around the time of the conception.

The filmmakers smartly resist trying to rely entirely on Zach carrying around a handheld camera the entire time, so they utilize other video options - a surveillance camera at the supermarket, for example - as well. At one point when the couple is out for the evening, some not-so-friendly neighbors pop in and install hidden cameras all over the house, Paranormal Activity-style, so they can keep tabs on the mother-to-be.

But virtually everything about this movie is too old-hat to offer much beyond a few brief thrills. The filmmaking technique is played out, the material is tired, and frankly there's just not much interesting or particularly scary about devil babies anymore. We know everything we need to know about Devil's Due before we even set foot in the theatre.


Read more by Chris Bellamy


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