Horror fans don’t always have it easy, especially in recent years. All too often a new film appears with a punchy, appealing trailer and an interesting concept; you don’t expect it to be the best film ever made but you at least hope for something decent, before lacklustre reviews dash your hopes. You may drag yourself to the cinema for the disappointment, or await home release but you already know this is just another fruitless endeavour. Devil’s Due, from the L.A. filmmaker group Radio Silence was one such movie it seemed, with pretty harsh reviews, a 4.0 rating on IMDb, 18% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a relatively weak box office taking. Nonetheless I was drawn away from my better judgement by my memories of the promising trailer and Radio Silence’s previous effort on the brilliant 10/31/98 segment of V/H/S to buy the DVD and half-heartedly hope it wasn’t a waste of a fiver.
I loved it.
Opening to a montage of footage showing Zach & Samantha, a young couple getting married & going on their honeymoon, the film spends the first 10 minutes or so reiterating the point that they’re really nice people and really love each other in scenes that look and feel more like B-Roll footage from a Disney Channel movie. However some silly decisions on their part lead to an incredibly swift change in tone and some brilliant imagery surprisingly early on that most lazily produced found footage movies would save for the final act. They return home & Samantha discovers she’s pregnant. We follow their home videos recorded through the pregnancy, ultimately charting the gradual possession of Samantha caused by whatever is really growing inside her.
One of the major criticisms of this film is it’s similarity to Rosemary’s Baby. Maybe I’m too used to a world where truly original ideas in cinema are scarce, but this makes it one of very few “possessed pregnancy” movies that I’m aware of, when there are countless movies that fit in genres such as “young girl gets possessed”, “masked maniac kills some teens”, “our new house might be haunted” and so on that are able to get great reviews despite being every bit as derivative as this movie. Also, like most other found-footage movies, you do occasionally ask yourself whether you’d really keep filming in the situations the characters find themselves, but a brief moment of self-referential cheese near the beginning explains away the handheld footage, plus the introduction of static cameras halfway through actually works really well in adding a level of mystery to the plot. Pacing is also well handled; the 90 minutes are pretty well packed with actual plot rather than pointless filler and long shots of nothing happening, and it is surprisingly unpredictable as to where it goes in each scene – unusual goings on aren’t limited to night-vision shenanigans as Paranormal Activity seems to have created a found footage standard for, and there are some inspired uses of the first-person perspective creating a couple of incredibly tense sequences, and elsewhere providing some fantastic visuals. The general sense of dread & mystery and frequent creepy images are the main sources of horror here; though there are a number of jump scares they’re all visible a mile off, so it’s thankful that they didn’t rely solely on these.
At the end of the day, this film doesn’t try to reinvent the genre, and has it’s fair share of silly moments but it tells an involving story with a believable and likeable cast of characters and I think it contains some of the best uses of found footage I’ve seen. Of course everyone has a different opinon, but I am very surprised to see just how differently I feel about this film to the majority of reviewers out there.