I know, I know, I’m done to death with found footage movies too. But I was excited to see Devil’s Due anyway, partly because I’m Facebook friends with the screenwriter’s husband, and partly because I liked what the directors had pulled off in their segment of V/H/S and was curious to see what they’d do with a full-length feature.
If you’ve somehow made it this far without seeing the trailers for Devil’s Due, and you can’t figure it out from the poster image, this is another installment in the venerable “woman impregnated with the antichrist” genre, and owes as much to that genre’s forebears as you might imagine. Think of it as Rosemary’s Baby for 2014.
We all know more or less where a movie like this is headed before we begin, and Devil’s Due certainly manages to hit all the major beats that you’d expect. If the history of horror cinema is any indication, pregnancy is a rich minefield of fears and anxieties, and Devil’s Due spends its early reels ticking them off. Things get weirder as the film spools out, and there’s a growing sense of the scale of the conspiracy that’s going on here that’s occasionally well-handled. The characters are convincing and believable—in spite of living in incredibly spacious houses and working jobs that seem to demand nothing of them, as most young married people in movies seem to do—thanks to credible performances from the actors, especially Allison Miller as the antichrist’s unwitting mother-to-be.
With their segment of V/H/S, the directors showed a real knack for evoking a big bang by carefully deploying what was, on the surface, a pretty simple effect. (In V/H/S one of the big winners for me was a doorknob disappearing into the door.) They do the same thing here. While the special effects shots are primarily saved for the film’s last leg, there are several moments that take fairly straightforward tricks and make them jaw-dropping by virtue of timing and placement. One of the movie’s best moments—a scene in a Lamaze class—requires no special effect at all to achieve its result, just good execution.
The problem with Devil’s Due is less a problem with it, and more a problem with found footage fatigue. Like so many of the by-now ubiquitous films that take this approach, Devil’s Due gains less from the found footage format than it loses. One of the many problems with a lot of the found footage films floating around out there is that they’re seldom credible as actual found documents, and without that credibility, much of what makes found footage effective is lost. Devil’s Due deploys some decent tricks to try to breathe some life into the format—a moment near the middle of the film that introduces a new source of cameras is particularly chilling—but ultimately, it falls victim to the same weaknesses. It’s not a particularly egregious offender, it just happens to be the latest in a long line.
And at the end of the day, that’s what keeps Devil’s Due from succeeding more than it does. It’s a fine enough film, but it doesn’t rise high enough above the tide of similar product to really distinguish itself as anything more.