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Non-Review Review: Devil’s Due

The single biggest problem with Devil’s Due is that it’s boring.

There are a lot of other flaws. It’s really creepily xenophobic. It has little interest in the female character carrying this baby. It is completely uninterested in the “found footage” thing, but still commits to using it. It is really just a bunch of clichés that we’ve seen done much better elsewhere. Its protagonists rank incredibly low on the intelligence scale for horror movies, which sets a pretty low baseline to begin with.

However, the most frustrating flaw with this reproductive horror is the fact that it’s just deathly dull.

The belly of the beast...

The belly of the beast…

Reproductive horror is a genre that should be very hard to mess up. Horror movies tend to work best as grotesque reflections of real fears, and pregnancy something that can easily be warped to create Cronenberg-esque body horror – not to mention the existential fears associated with bringing new life into the world. What if your child doesn’t love you? What if your child becomes a black hole which sucks away your life as you know it? What if your child is a monster? What if the pregnancy doesn’t go well? What if the family doesn’t hold together?

These are all pressing and uncomfortable questions, and when coupled with some of the more uncomfortable aspects of pregnancy – the changes to the body, the fact that there’s something living inside another human being, the cravings, the restricted mobility – it’s easy to see why pregnancy can be terrifying. Reproductive horror works because it taps into these basic fears so easily. It’s such a rich field of horror that it encompasses classics like The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby and even Alien.

Now remember: it's more important to document this freaky stuff than it is to seek actual medical advice or assistance...

Now remember: it’s more important to document this freaky stuff than it is to seek actual medical advice or assistance…

Devil’s Due can’t seem to figure out what it is doing. The premise is in the title, a half-decent bit of wordplay that is probably the smartest thing about the film. A couple of newly weds get pregnant, but it turns out that there’s something sinister about the pregnancy. This is normally where the film would try the provide some examination of the themes or raise some uncomfortable questions. Instead, Devil’s Due pads itself out with contemporary horror movie clichés.

It involves demons; because that seems to be the horror movie vogue of late, what with The Last Exorcism and Paranormal Activity and Insidious and all that. There’s a cult; because that’s also a familiar plot device. It’s not enough to have satanic forces at play. There need to be lots of individual people, because… well, that’s another element that might pad us out to ninety minutes. There’s some vague occultish stuff, which only an older member of the cast can recognise, informing our heroes that bad things are going on, because the audience can’t be trusted to figure that out by themselves.

Pregnant pause...

Pregnant pause…

Devil’s Due hits all of these clichés in the most mundane manner possible. It’s like checking items off a check list. Sinister new doctor on second visit to the clinic? Check. Local parish priest who can somehow recognise arcane symbols and yet still give vague and generic answers about sinister evils stemming from “early religion”? Check. Lots of awkward mentioning of stuff that will become important later on, like the sale of creepy local property and the lead female character’s vegetarianism? Check.

All of this is generic, and Devil’s Due is so weirdly fixated on its “found footage” style that none of this ever comes to life. The found footage aspect of the film is distracting. Who is editing all of this together? How to those stationary spy cameras pan? Who gets those occasional cinematic angles that the film insists on cutting to every so often? The movie contrives any number of excuses to explain how all of this footage could possibly have come from cameras inside the film, including a bunch of pervy satanists setting up concealed webcams, but it all feels rather forced.

Marriage from hell...

Marriage from hell…

It’s weird that our protagonist radically reduces the use of his camera once the evil satanic spy cameras are installed in his house. It’s weird that our protagonist has recorded quite a lot of evidence of what is going on, but remains completely blind to all the vaguely creepy stuff happening around him. It’s weird that the movie opens with the implication that the husband is being accused of these crimes, when the movie works so hard to convince us that objective CCTV evidence exists of all this freaky stuff going on, even outside the work documented by the husband or the satanists.

It’s all lazy, and distractingly so. However, it doesn’t distract from some of the more uncomfortable implications of the movie. There’s a rather bizarre fear of foreigners at play here. It turns out that our female lead is apparently raped by Satan on a trip to the Dominican Republic, where it seems like everybody is in on the sinister plan – from the fortune teller they visit to the taxi driver who just happens to pick them up.

Euro symbol of evil!

Euro symbol of evil!

The movie ends with the implication that apparently Satan is waiting for any American newly-wed couples stupid enough to honeymoon abroad. Never mind the logical implications of this – why only Americans? how does the taxi car of doom know who to pick up? surely it’s more cost effect to prey on couples who honeymoon locally? – it all seems uncomfortably xenophobic, to the point where it makes sense when Satan’s sign is revealed to look a little bit like the euro symbol. Satanic foreigners!

The script also doesn’t seem to care at all about the movie’s female lead. It’s more preoccupied with the concerns of the male lead, which is a strange choice in a body horror like this – one might imagine that investing the pregnant character with some agency would be a smart decision. To be fair, the film does give her one small scene of wondering what life after pregnancy might be like, hinting at the sort of existential concerns that horrors like this tend to play with, but the film isn’t smart enough to make that connection. It’s more interested in having her do gross stuff while her husband freaks out about his video camera.

Slice of life...

Slice of life…

Devil’s Due is just a terrible piece of cinema, a horrifyingly boring film.

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5 Responses

  1. Reblogged this on Jessie Spencer's Blogspot.

  2. Good review. Very entertaining.

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