What happens when you take take the concept of “Rosemary’s Baby,” and then proceed to remove all of the elements that made that movie good and instead replace them with a plot riddled with loopholes, bad acting, predictable jump scares, and the nausea-inducing and overused hand-held camera style of filming that has plagued the horror genre for the past few years?
You get “Devil’s Due.”
It’s been a while since I sat down to do a good old fashioned horror movie review. Not only because there hasn’t been a whole lot of new horror movies that have piqued my interest as of late, but because my “Horrors of Netflix” review series back in October was pretty traumatic (I’ll be doing it again this October, however- so apparently not traumatic enough.) I saw previews for “Devil’s Due” right around the time they released trailers for “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones,” which I contemplated seeing since I’d already suffered through the last two in theaters- but last night I ultimately I decided to pass on “getting motion sickness while this franchise tries to desperately tie the plot from the first two movies into these sequels as much as possible,” and instead went with “getting motion sickness while this seemingly new franchise sets the bar for horror even lower.”
Before you click the “READ MORE” link below, I do want to give the obligatory warning that I will be breaking this movie down and posting a TON of detailed spoilers. If any of you want to see “Devil’s Due” for yourself without knowing what happens- DO NOT CONTINUE READING.
You’ve been warned.
First things first. One of the aspects I liked about the first “Paranormal Activity” (which I still contend is a decent flick,) was that the first-person, hand-held camera style of filming was explained briefly and subtly. Weird, unexplained things were happening in the couple’s home, and in an attempt to document anything that went on while they slept- the boyfriend purchased and rigged up a camera in the corner of their bedroom, occasionally carrying it with him to different parts of the house to capture any phenomenons. It was one camera, it was effective, and it’s purpose didn’t need to be explained over and over.
The subtly was lost on “Devil’s Due,” when literally seconds after being introduced to Zach and Samantha- the main characters in this story- the night before they’re to be married, Zach gives a long and oddly placed explanation to his bride-to-be, while the camera is rolling, of course- about not having many videos from when he was younger and wanting to document all the “random, awkward moments that they might forget about,” which is a dumbed-down way of telling the audience why this guy is going to be filming anything and everything when anyone in their right state of mind would be putting the camera down to run the fuck away. His explanation is repeated at various points throughout the movie, mainly to secondary characters who naturally see the camera as invasive and want to know why some asshole won’t stop filming them.
It’s within this touching exchange that we also learn Samantha has no family, and are reminded of it for most of the movie, which must mean it’s integral to the plot- but it actually isn’t. At all. Not once. But I digress…
Zach and Samantha’s wedding goes off without a hitch, and the two take off to honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. We’re treated to a bunch of sightseeing footage until the last night of their stay when Samantha insists on seeing a palm reader following a street festival/fair. As you’d probably suspect, the palm reader is freaked out by Samantha’s palm/past/future/whatever, and in turn freaks Samantha and Zach out- who do the responsible thing and run out into the streets of a foreign country they are not familiar with and where they don’t speak the native language until they get completely lost and have to track down a taxi.
In their next responsible move as two adults in a foreign land, Zach and Samantha let the cab driver talk them into going to a party. This isn’t just any party, however. This party requires their driving miles outside the city in which they’re staying, navigating their way on foot behind a bunch of dilapidated houses and through darkened tunnels, until they finally reach some sort of underground night club where the two proceed to drink until Zach puts the camera- still rolling- inside Samantha’s purse and the two black out. I’ll bet you’ll never guess what happens next. The camera, still in the purse, captures snippets of some sort of satanic ritual being performed on Samantha while her and Zach are out cold. If this movie was supposed to deter tourism to the Dominican Republic, I think it succeeded.
The couple wake up in their hotel room the following day, hungover and with no recollection of how they got back there. Rather than, oh, I don’t know- watch the tapes to see what happened the night before- Zach continues filming all the “random, awkward moments” of their trip back to America and shortly thereafter, opening their wedding presents. Samantha is especially happy about a juicer they’ve received, and it’s revealed that she is a vegetarian, which unlike her “not having a family” back story, actually serves a purpose down the line.
In a predictable turn of events, Samantha soon learns she’s pregnant, despite “taking her pill religiously,” and after a initial sonogram shows her demon fetus is doing well and everything seems to be progressing normally- the couple announce the happy news to the secondary characters representing family and friends that nobody actually cares about. Zach gets to work on building a nursery in their home, taking notice of (see: unnecessarily filming) a strange man staring up at the nursery window from across the street.
Samantha, meanwhile, gets to work on experiencing increasing amounts of pain, hunger, nosebleeds, mood swings, and bouts of strength. During a routine couples birthing class, Samantha is the only one not afflicted when every other woman in the room begin experiencing intense abdominal pains. In one scene, apparently a couple of months after first learning of her pregnancy, Samantha is shown on a supermarket security camera shopping for food. She stops at the meat cooler, and while a horrified child watches- proceeds to eat raw beef straight from the package. Security camera footage from another trip, this time to a baby store with Zach in tow, captures Samantha nearly getting backed up into by a van in the parking lot- where she then smashes out the windows with her BARE HANDS and tries to beat the hell out of the driver.
Zach is alarmed at his wife’s strange behavior and increasing symptoms, and brings her back to her Doctor’s office for a check up and a couple of tests to make sure the baby is alright since Samantha seems certain something is wrong. Samantha’s Doctor from the initial sonogram is nowhere to be found, and has been replaced by a kindly old man (who doesn’t tell Zach to turn the fucking camera off,) who insists on keeping her overnight for evaluation. Meanwhile, with Zach and Samantha preoccupied, someone breaks into their home and installs a bunch of strategically placed security cameras in different locations around the house- apparently determined to be more intrusive than Zach’s non-stop filming- even with his wife in peril.
The couple return home, blissfully unaware that they’re being monitored, and things don’t get much better. Samantha sneaks out while Zach rests on the couch, and cell phone footage from some local teens dicking around in the nearby woods reveal that she has mauled and is devouring a couple of deer carcasses. When the teens approach her, Samantha murders them in typical “Paranormal Activity” style by sending them flying using some sort of telekinetic/Hadouken! mind powers. Admittedly, I laughed out loud at this scene.
Shortly thereafter, Samantha’s friends and Zach’s family, apparently not giving a shit that she’s pretty far along in her pregnancy- throw her a surprise party which doesn’t bode well for the expecting mother- and she promptly goes upstairs to rest. Zach’s young niece, or maybe she’s a cousin? I have no idea. She’s about seven or eight and she ends up taking the camera and sneaks upstairs to scope out things with the night vision option. She stumbles on Samantha, furiously carving some sort of symbol into the floor of the nursery, before she takes off after she’s spotted and gets the shit scared out of her.
This same niece/cousin/camera thief goes on to make her first communion at the very same church where Zach and Samantha were married. The priest who wed them is also leading the service. He has a brief run-in with Samantha outside, and cannot stop coughing in her presence until he’s forced to excuse himself. Inside the church, it doesn’t go much smoother. In the middle of a prayer, Zach, still refusing to put the damned camera down, catches the priest staring directly at Samantha- unable to speak. Samantha’s eyes are red, and she seems to be in some sort of trance, but all that is forgotten when the priest begins coughing up blood to the horror of the children in attendance and all hell breaks loose as people try to assist the poor guy when he collapses onto the floor.
Back at the house, the hidden cameras capture Samantha, no longer in demonic trance mode, and who is devastated, feeling as though she caused the priest’s episode- and Zach decides to re-watch the footage to see if he can detect what exactly went wrong. In the stupidest plot twist ever- he STILL fails to notice his wife’s red eyes prior to the priest coughing up blood and instead notices that the cab driver from the Dominican Republic was in attendance during the ceremony. From there, Zach finally gets around to watching that honeymoon footage he should have probably checked out months prior and sees what the rest of us knew an hour earlier- some shit went down after he blacked out.
He notices some symbols in the footage, the tapes of which go missing after he phones a friend to come over and watch them with him to get a second opinion, and sketches them to bring to the priest- who isn’t dead, by the way- but he’s in the hospital. The priest, not minding that he’s laid up in a hospital bed and some jackass is filming him during his recovery, explains that the symbols act as a door for the Antichrist to get in and out. Essentially, the symbol in the video was the way for the Antichrist to get into Samantha- and that thing she was carving into the floor of the nursery? Yeah. That’s how it gets out- as opposed to just escaping through her vagina. The priest, realizing that he didn’t just have a stroke and was actually being harmed by Samantha’s demon spawn, tells Zach to get the hell out. He’s pretty much done with their bullshit almost as much as I am.
Regardless of this news, Zach still lets Samantha’s loud and inconsiderate friends throw her a baby shower where she receives an anonymous gift- a Goddamned silver, intricate carving knife- that nobody seems to find unusual or at the least- creepy as hell. Afterwards, when Zach is asking how the shower went, he hears a noise outside and upon investigating- notices that their house has been broken into. While the police “investigate” (see: say they’ll file a report and then leave,) Samantha is shown upstairs, through a hidden camera angle that we actually haven’t seen before- nice work on the continuity, there- playing with the carving knife while humming a lullaby.
Hang in there, everyone. You’ve made it this far. It’s almost over.
Between finding Samantha in trance-like states, some of which make her behave violently, and spotting more and more people lurking outside the house, Zach gets the brilliant idea to follow them one night, camera in hand, to see what’s going on in the abandoned house in the neighborhood that he’s deduced is where they’re coming from. He calls a family/friend/again, a character nobody is particularly invested in- to stay with Samantha while he goes for a little breaking and entering of his own. It doesn’t take long for the nameless character to find Samantha in the nursery, furiously carving away at the floor. When the baby-mama-sitter attempts to intervene, Samantha promptly uses her telekinetic demon powers to kill her.
Meanwhile, Zach, upon entering the seemingly abandoned house, sees the same symbols that were in the honeymoon ritual footage painted crudely on the walls. In one of the upstairs bedrooms, there is a command center of sorts, where the feedback from the hidden cameras in the house is displayed. Zach sees Samantha in the nursery, in full on possessed mode, and books it out of there- racing home to get to her- but not before catching a glimpse of some sort of cult-like prayer circle going on in the living room. He also calls the cops once he escapes, frantically tells them something is wrong with his wife, and gives them their address. I’ll mention why that’s important in a second.
After arriving back at the house, Zach sees that there are creepy cult members lurking pretty much everywhere, although his neighbors don’t seem to notice. Inside, he can hear Samantha screaming- but every time he attempts to get close to her- CAMERA ROLLING OF COURSE- shit goes flying, Zach goes flying, Samantha contorts herself into an unnatural and uncomfortable position, there’s a lot of unnecessary screeching- and basically just the boring, not-shocking-at-all-anymore bullshit that comes with these kinds of movies.
Eventually, Zach does reach his wife- who promptly uses her mind to pin him against the wall before stepping into the carved Antichrist doorway in the middle of the nursery. It’s then, for whatever reason, that the hand-held camera/security footage technique that has been used this ENTIRE movie goes out the window, and it’s filmed normally- which pissed me off even more than the overall awfulness of this movie for some reason. Anyway, Samantha ends up cutting open her stomach and some glowing, bad CGI takes place- signaling the arrival of the spawn of Satan before she collapses onto the floor and subsequently releases Zach, who immediately crawls to her aid and the hand-held camera rule is back in place. Again- continuity.
While Zach weeps on the floor as Samantha dies, but not before apologizing and asking if the baby is okay. Then, two people come into the room. Not cops, mind you- although they were called twenty minutes earlier- but the cab driver from the Dominican Republic, and the Doctor who had kept Samantha overnight at the hospital for evaluation. They take the baby, who has a weird glowing cranium for some reason- and leave. Then the cops show up, making me concerned about their response time to emergencies- and naturally hold Zach accountable for Samantha’s death and for the disappearance of the baby, despite him having a camera and a house literally FILLED with evidence that proves otherwise.
Hope that was enough of a “random, awkward moment” for you, Zach!
This travesty ends with footage from another couple filming themselves on their last night of a honeymoon in Paris. They hail a cab to go back to their hotel, when- you guessed it- the driver from the Dominican Republic shows up- and offers them a ride. He then offers to take them to a party just outside the city, and once again- two adults in an unfamiliar country agree to go along- undoubtedly paving the way for a sequel.
Fuck this movie.
There was not one scene in this movie that was genuinely frightening. Jump scares are a dime a dozen in horror flicks these days, and it seems like the writers decided to opt for an overabundance of those instead of piecing together a plot that stays consistent and makes sense. More importantly, everything in this movie has been done to DEATH. The only interesting scene that seemed somewhat unique involved Zach leaving the camera on by mistake and filming Samantha sleeping on the couch. When he exits the room, the demon spawn pushes out on her stomach in a way that made quite a few people in the theater cringe- but other than that- it was just so boring and repetitive.
Things flying around? Check. People getting thrown like rag dolls by unseen forces? Check. More questions than answers by the end of the movie? Check. (Who is the cab driver? Did nobody notice the original Doctor disappeared and the new Doctor took over Samantha’s file seemingly out of nowhere? Why did it take the police so long to show up for an emergency? Why was Samantha’s lack of family such a continuously mentioned plot device when it didn’t actually go anywhere? Who green lighted this?)
Also- UNNECESSARY NIGHT VISION? CHECK. CHECK. CHECK.
I’m begging anyone out there who is thinking of, or in the process of making a horror movie- please, for the love of God and everything considered holy- come up with something original.
1 Chainsaw out of 5.