Devil's DueWednesday 15 Jan 2014
Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Starring: Allison Miller and Zach Gilford
Duration: 89 minutes
Zach (Zach Gilford) and Samantha (Allison Miller) travel to the Dominican Republic on their honeymoon. On the last night, a taxi driver persuades them to come to a remote cellar bar, where they down shots and drink themselves into absolute wipe-out.
Something very odd happens, some strange kind of voodoo or religious ritual, the effects of which only become apparent when they return to the United States.
Now, quite a number of films coming out of the US these days must have the man of the house obsessed, fetishistic almost, about cameras and filmed records. Zach in Devil's Due is no exception. He has webcams or CCTV in every room of their new home; when he is walking about in the Dominican Republic he affixes a tiny camera to his shirt to record his wife walking ahead of him.
But the couple are so blissfully, so unnervingly in love that Samantha doesn't mind. Zach's excuse is that he is recording everything to show their unborn child. But their unborn child is where the trouble starts, linked with the film's opening quotation from John's Gospel about the birth of anti-Christs.
As a device, all this hyper-filming is gimmicky, and gets in the way of a simple narrative. Sure, Zach tracks back through the computer to watch the honeymoon footage and finds something. But that could have easily featured as a totally random piece of film-making on Zach's part and would have been all the more dramatic for that.
The cameras are just too overpowering and overbearing. Moreover, Devil's Due might in fact make you dizzy - as it did your reviewer - with all the frenetic camera motion.
So, where is the notion of telling a sinister tale on film plainly disappeared to? Why are DIY cameras piled on like fast food in too many scenarios? It shows a distinct lack of confidence in the strength of a good screenplay. It also shows that such producers know what they are at: get in fast, make a quick buck. These films are going to look very dated in 10 years' time. Their webcams and laptops are going to instantly carbon-date them.
So, you know what, the producers are well aware that they are not making classics, which is some indictment. Nic Roeg's early Seventies film, Don't Look Now, is still one of the scariest films you could ever see. But it borrows nothing from contemporary technology, laying the scenario instead around the mournful waters of Venice.
The shame of it all is that Devil's Due has the makings of a seriously good film. It is much more artful in its visceral scariness than The Conjuring, Sinister or Dark Skies, which are tired formulaic exercises, ringing with clichés like bells and whistles. But unfortunately, the film has frightened us so much in the build-up that by the time it gets to the climax it has literally run out of ideas and begins to flag terribly.
However, it is also certain that many will like everything about this film that this reviewer found deeply irritating.