Per­haps Devil’s Doo would be a bet­ter ti­tle

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Ran­dall King

LIKE it or not, the “found-footage” hor­ror movie has be­come an in­escapable Hollywood sta­ple. Here’s why: They can be filmed cheaply with a no-name cast, and still yield big bucks. On rare oc­ca­sions ( The Blair Witch Project, the first Para­nor­mal Ac­tiv­ity), they can ac­tu­ally be good movies. More of­ten, stu­dios pro­duce stuff like Devil’s Due. The apos­tro­phe in the ti­tle ap­par­ently de­lin­eates a con­trac­tion, not a pos­ses­sive, which is the most clever thing about the film. It’s all down­hill from there. Co-di­rected by Matt Bet­tinel­liOlpin and Tyler Gil­lett, this movie out­ra­geously begs com­par­i­son to Ro­man Polan­ski’s 1968 clas­sic Rose­mary’s Baby in that it’s about a preg­nancy from — and of — hell. New­ly­weds Zach (Zach Gil­ford) and Sa­man­tha (Al­li­son Miller) are hon­ey­moon­ing in Santo Domingo when they en­counter a bum­mer of a palm reader who tells the blush­ing bride, an or­phan, that she was “born of death” and more omi­nously: “They are wait­ing.” They flee and end up in the clutches of a cab driver who in­sists on driv­ing them to an au­then­tic Santo Domingo un­der­ground party, where the cou­ple drink them­selves into a dan­ger­ous Rob Ford-wor­thy stu­por. They awake the next morn­ing in their ho­tel room won­der­ing how they got back there. Sam soon learns she is preg­nant. Zach, who al­ready has an an­noy­ing habit of video­tap­ing most of his ex­pe­ri­ences, kicks it up a few notches to record Sa­man­tha through­out her preg­nancy, as a gift to their un­born child. One hopes the kid will have a high tol­er­ance for su­per­nat­u­ral cliché. As Sam’s belly gets big­ger, the dev­il­baby tropes get more strained. For ex­am­ple, in a homage to Mia Far­row’s raw liver con­sump­tion in Rose­mary’s Baby, the vegetarian Sa­man­tha is caught by a su­per­mar­ket sur­veil­lance cam­era chow­ing down on a pack­age of raw meat. Also, as in Rose­mary, Sa­man­tha’s car­ing doc­tor is re­placed by an icy, sus­pi­ciously pa­ter­nal­is­tic physician. The cou­ple also dis­cover they are es­sen­tially un­der sur­veil­lance by mys­te­ri­ous strangers. It goes on. Per­haps a more help­ful ap­proach to Devil’s Due would fo­cus on how the film doesn’t re­sem­ble Rose­mary’s Baby. Gil­ford and Miller are un­for­giv­ably bor­ing com­pared to Far­row and John Cas­savetes. (Per­sonal prej­u­dice: Cas­savetes’s work in Rose­mary’s Baby is one of the great un­sung hor­ror movie per­for­mances ever.) In­stead of slowly ratch­et­ing up the ten­sion, a la Polan­ski, Bet­tinel­liOlpin and Gil­lett al­ter­nate ex­po­si­tion and jump-scares with clock­work reg­u­lar­ity. To gra­tu­itously kick it up, the di­rec­tors throw in a tan­gen­tial scene in­volv­ing three teens and a cou­ple of freshly slaugh­tered deer seems lifted right out of Para­nor­mal Ac­tiv­ity or Chron­i­cle. If a few scenes near the end man­age to im­press with their gen­re­spe­cific Sturm und Drang, the film on the whole is a for­get­table throw­away. One is com­pelled to the con­clu­sion that the true hor­ror of studio-pro­duced hor­ror movies is that no­body seems to be try­ing any­more.

What the Devil?: Al­li­son Miller

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