Though I don’t remember the exact quote, Tina Fey said something pretty hilarious – and painfully true – in the opening segment of last Sunday’s Golden Globes. In reference to the Hollywood system, she joked that if something works, the studios will keep on doing it… until everyone is totally sick of it. As I sit here and write yet another review for yet another found footage horror movie, I can’t help but hear those words in my head.
Devil’s Due is the latest in a long line of recent found footage flicks, this one directed by two men that comprise the four man filmmaking collective known as Radio Silence. Founded in 2011, the quartet made a name for themselves thanks to their YouTube videos, and though you may not know their names, it’s likely that you’ve seen their work. They were the dudes behind the 10/31/98 segment of V/H/S, which is considered by most fans to be the standout entry in the anthology.
A found footage short about a Halloween party gone horribly wrong, 10/31/98 is indeed one of the best things about the overall lackluster film, one that earned my respect by being the only entry in the anthology that actually felt like it could’ve been found in some weird dude’s house, on a VHS tape – that was the concept of the movie, after all. Creative, full of energy and more effective than most feature length found footage flicks, 10/31/98 showed that these boys have got talent, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying that their involvement in Devil’s Due is just about the only thing that made me want to see it. I’m totally burned out on found footage at this point… can you blame me?
Though it’s pretty safe to say that the plot of Devil’s Due needs no introduction, the basic rundown is that a happy young couple (Zach & Samantha) get married and take a trip to the Dominican Republic for their honeymoon – a trip that they return from with another member of the family. Samantha is quite surprised to discover that she’s pregnant, and though her and Zach are initially excited about the impending arrival of their baby, their excitement and happiness soon turns to terror. Nobody ever said pregnancy was easy, but Sam’s got it particularly rough. She’s carrying the son of Satan in her belly, after all.
I tweeted a couple weeks back that if Devil’s Due didn’t blend together in my mind with all the other found footage movies that came in Paranormal Activity‘s wake, I would be satisfied with it. I know I tend to not dish out all that many glowing reviews, but truthfully I’m pretty damn easy to please. With this one, all I was looking for was something just a tad bit different – different enough that it didn’t feel like another Paranormal Activity movie. Is that so much to ask?
Unfortunately, Devil’s Due is in fact just another Paranormal Activity movie, only with a baby belly strapped to it. In fact, I wouldn’t have been surprised, in the least, if it ended with a twist that tied it into the franchise. And that’s not a good thing. Not at all.
There seems to be some sort of unwritten rule that dictates that all found footage movies have to be exactly the same, and Devil’s Due very much abides by that rule. It’s Found Footage 101 on almost every level, and the similarities to the last several Paranormal Activity movies are so blatant that I can’t help wonder if the script for the film started off as a potential Paranormal Activity sequel. From weird symbols to demonic forces that hit people like unseen tidal waves, a possessed wife to a husband looking for answers – while at the same time filming everything, of course – Devil’s Due comes off like a film that was Frankenstein’d together from parts of found footage films past, and it’s so clearly an attempt by Fox to cash in on the success of the Paranormal Activity franchise that I’m actually kind of mad at myself for falling for it and giving them my hard-earned money. True, a talented group of filmmakers are listed on IMDb as the directors of the film, but make no mistake; this a studio-made cash-in film, at the end of the day.
Perhaps it’s because they’ve impressed me in the past, but I really don’t even blame the failure of Devil’s Due on Radio Silence, because I firmly believe that the movie would be far different if they made it on their own accord. It’s entirely possibly that I’m giving them too much credit, based on a fairly decent short film they made a few years back, but again this movie just reeks of studio involvement, on every level.
That said, I will give the boys credit for doing everything in their power to make Devil’s Due not seem like a found footage film, in the sense that they cleverly found ways to show us things that we wouldn’t normally be able to see in a movie that’s shot by a character in it. Truthfully though, the attempts to do so feel like the attempts of filmmakers who are trying to at least somewhat stray from the formula they were confined to, and they end up doing little more than making you wish the story was not being told in the handheld POV style. Had found footage not been employed as a means to tell the story, I’ve got a strong feeling that Devil’s Due would be a much better film than it is. Or at least, a much less irritating one. Yea, let’s go with that.
But, ya know, found footage = box office dollars… so that’s that. Enjoy the money, Fox. Buy yourselves something nice on my dime.
Devil’s Due is nothing more than a modern day remake of Rosemary’s Baby, tailor made for audiences that are more interested in gimmicks than stories, and it’s a reminder that Hollywood horror has taken a serious turn for the worse in the years since guys like Polanski and Kubrick were telling their tales of terror. While films like The Shining, The Exorcist, Night of the Living Dead and Rosemary’s Baby relied on story to creep us out with haunted locations, demonic possessions, zombies and devil babies, the modern day films that have come in their wake have thrown those stories out the window in favor of gimmicks and silly little bells and whistles, and as a result they’ve also stripped away the humanity and horror from the proceedings. Devil’s Due, like most found footage films, is as gimmicky as horror movies get, and I for one am completely tired of paying to see the same stories, and the same gimmicks, over and over again.
It’s enough already. And I’m putting my foot down.