The Austin Chronicle

Devil's Due

Rated R, 90 min. Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett. Starring Allison Miller, Zach Gilford, Sam Anderson, Vanessa Ray, Bill Martin Williams, Geraldine Singer, Julia Denton, Colin Walker.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 24, 2014

Babies may seem to be shrieky nightmares to anyone who’s shopped after work at a Wal-Mart lately, but the little hellions’ cunning skills with Technicolor yawns and banshee howls are too often overlooked by their glassy-eyed, zombified progenitors. As in Roman Polanski’s infinitely superior Rosemary’s Baby, the titular unholy spawn doesn’t technically arrive until the end of Devil’s Due. The paranoiac fear factor, what there is of it, mounts in those dreadful months leading up to the actual, unblessed event.

Directors Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett (collectively known – along with cinematographer Justin Martinez and producer Chad Villella – by the sobriquet “Radio Silence”) helmed a solidly scary segment of the 2012 found-footage anthology film V/H/S, and they return to a similar conceit here, using the hidden cameras and “you are there” stylistic trickery made popular (and financially feasible) by subgenre forerunners such as The Blair Witch Project, the Paranormal Activity franchise, and too many others. It works, up to a point, but the film’s overly familiar substance and style leave you with an inevitable “been there, done that” taste in your mouth. For all its effectively spooky cinematography, this popcorn horror show is just plain stale.

That’s no fault of actors Gilford and Miller, who do a fine job as Zach and Samantha McCall, a perky pair of newlyweds who return from their honeymoon in Santo Domingo freshly accursed after blacking out while attending a shady, underground nightspot. Roofies? We think not. Before you can say “Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby is already a really lousy made-for-TV sequel,” Samantha discovers she’s pregnant. Suddenly, said unplanned pregnancy is accompanied by a voraciously carnivorous appetite, inexplicable and outré symbols and portents that appear and disappear, and, well, you can probably surmise the rest.

Although a slow-burn approach to this sort of creepfest is generally a smart move, Devil’s Due peters out of outright suspense midway through and never fully recovers, despite (or possibly because of) a final reel that may shock some viewers but will leave die-hard genre fans gnashing their teeth and rending their clothes in dismay. It’s certainly not the worst of the found-footage subgenre, but it’s a far cry from its Sixties- and Seventies-era cinematic inspirations.

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