I find few things in the world of horror films more polarizing than “found footage” films. Most of what I hear or see about them is a night and day difference; either people love them to the point where even the most pathetic little rat turd of a POV film is discussed with something approaching reverence, or hate them to the level of calling such successes as The Blair Witch Project or REC “pure shit”. As I’ve said in other reviews, I’m on the fence about the style; when it’s done poorly, they do suck. In those cases, I feel they’re cheats for someone with a deficiency of either knowledge or talent (or both) to slap together a flick for a quick buck. When it’s done well, however, I have to reaffirm that I enjoy them; everyone has their guilty little pleasures.
Thus, I went into Devil’s Due with a certain measure of wariness; the opinions I’d heard were heavy on the “this movie sucks balls” end, but there were a enough “give it a chance” notions to pique my curiosity. While this didn’t really affect my actual decision to watch the film (I would have watched it eventually, regardless), the positive perspectives just gave me a little hope.
We begin with what almost seems a nod to John Carpenter as we follow a POV shot of someone spying on a party, then sneaking into the home and surprising a young woman in her bathroom; it’s Zach, taking his trusty video camera on a trip to surprise his fiancée, Samantha (and catch her in the shower, most likely). We learn that the two are getting married tomorrow, and he is one of those “commit things to memory via video” type of guys. We get to watch the happy couple exchange vows and depart on their honeymoon to the Caribbean. While there, amidst the typical vacation video, we’re taken along as they accept the kind offer of a cabbie to take them “somewhere special” that is of local flavor, off the typical tourist radar. Surprised by the rather nice nightclub he takes them to despite its being nestled deep in a really rough-looking part of town, the newlyweds drink and dance the night away. Unknown to them (but not us, thanks to the still-running camera), they pass out and are taken to a place where we see a glimpse of some strange, ritualistic action. The two awaken with no memory of how they got back to their hotel, but have to hurry and get ready to go home; the kind cabbie must have brought them back, right? After a while, Samantha discovers she’s pregnant; Zach is ecstatic, and the two begin preparing for the new addition to the family with joy. Things don’t remain so light and happy, however; as the pregnancy progresses, Samantha’s condition seems to change for the worst. She abandons her vegetarian ways (in a pretty gross fashion), suffers from strange, spontaneous pains, and develops a violent, hair-trigger temper. As she approaches full-term, the changes she undergoes far surpass anything natural, and Zach is forced to face the fact that all is not as it seems, and his “happy family” is threatened in a way he could never have expected in his worst nightmares…
OK, so…it’s found footage. I’d wager that after reading the above paragraph, you’re figuring that Zach is an irritating and unrealistic jerk that tapes everything (if so, don’t feel bad; when I watched it, that’s what I thought at first); you’d be wrong. One thing that this film has going for it is that the footage isn’t all first-person on the part of one of the characters; there’s security camera footage, excerpts from other people’s cameras, and a lot of shots from cameras that I can’t really tell you anything about. Suffice to say, the way this movie is put together departs from the POV norm in such a way that it’s a somewhat more believable set-up. The acting was very good, and the script was such that I felt the characters behaved in a much more realistic fashion than the norm (that’s not to say they didn’t either do some stupid things or not do some things that any normal person would have done, just more realistic comparatively; it’s a horror flick, guys). The effects were sparse, but well-done; that said, the Hounds will not be impressed with this one. There’s only one really viscerally graphic scene, and it’s not one that the blood ‘n’ guts crowd would get behind. My biggest complaint is one that is a staple failing of virtually every first-person film; it’s a slow, slow starter. You’re a good ways into the film before anything really starts happening; ninety percent of the action comes in the last twenty percent of the movie. However (again, as I’ve said before), if you’re gonna accept that it’s “found footage”, you have to figure there’ll be a lot of bullshit on it that’s not what you wanna sit and watch. Poor loss prevention folks watch hours of people perusing goods just to find a ten-second shot of someone shoplifting…it’s just how it is.
This isn’t one that made me jump for joy, but I didn’t think it was terrible, either. Because of the points I’ve made, I found it better than at least two-thirds of all these type of films that I’ve seen. If you’re predisposed to not enjoying “found footage”, then of course you should avoid it. However, if you either enjoy them, or are (like me) a fence-rider, you should give it a shot.
That’s my spin; yours may be different.
Note: For a great example of what I meant by that “polarization” I mentioned at the top, check out my very own fearless Editor’s review of this very same flick right here. It’s what makes the world go ’round! 🙂
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