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Alarmingly inept horror with a spectacular disregard for originality — and authenticity for that matter — for emphasis on supernatural hijacks; the result barely racks the pulse. The devil conceit, that it so blatantly rips off from other — and better — horror films, seems artificial, as if tacked on as a superfluous by-product of the film’s underdeveloped mythology and then buried underneath a pastiche of clichés.
A sweaty honeymoon is the result of this ensuing chaos as newlywed couple Zach and Samantha McCall holiday away in the Dominican Republic. When pushed into a sinister looking cab they are quickly driven to an outdoor nightclub, where they exchange shots, dance ineptly and party – life is obviously too short for these two. However all of this succeeds putting them in the need for a total date rape evening – the film’s major conceit comes into the uncomfortable focus here.
When the couple return home Samantha discovers that she is pregnant. The euphoria surrounding the news quickly disintegrates as Samantha’s pregnancy takes a worrying turn. So it is up to the blithely unaware Zac to decide if his new bride is going through the run-of-the-mill pregnancy hormonal fits, or if the symptoms (devouring raw meat in supermarkets, grabbing his arm in infra-red glow, telekinetically attacking teenagers) resemble something more sinister at play.
Like Paranormal Activity, the film aims to show the disintegration of a perfect couple’s existence — and in case of the film itself moderate, marital infatuation — into something profoundly disturbing that mars the picturesque relationship. However, in Paranormal Activity these dark clouds that circulated and resonated so wonderfully were derived from simplicity of the concept, anticipation of impending horror and relentless suspense. In Devil’s Due, even the rudimentary scares seem compiled from elsewhere, with narrative framework ripped off from Rosemary’s Baby and ensuing scares borrowed heavily from The Omen and Paranormal Activity 3 respectively. In a similar style to The Omen in particular, even the opening starts off with a quote from I JOHN 2:18 from the Gospel of John as a clumsy, pseudo tagline to summarise the film’s simplistic philosophy.
Therefore whilst Paranormal Activity was a celebration of simplicity, Devil’s Due is about the conceit of clichés that it relies so heavily on. Making matters worse, it indulges far too much in sanitising the relationship for its hormonal and horny audiences. The casting of Zach falls square on a hunky actor with the perfect jaw line: Samantha lets the camera hover over Zach’s semi-nude body whilst he is sleeping and whispers smugly, ‘I have never seen anything so f******* perfect in my entire life’. Meanwhile Samantha herself looks like she is heading off to a fashion shoot, and the film makers clearly have no trouble in lingering on close up shots of her in her underwear.
The chemistry between our frequently scantily dressed heroes is also is lacking; everyone seems more involved in the kinetics of the generic horror adroitness than developing the relationship beyond the fact it was so perfectttttt before this mayhem. Thus it becomes disconcerting for viewers to know that the only blemish in the marriage, other than this supernatural chaos, is that Samantha snores loudly at night.
Devil’s Due aims to mimic Paranormal Activity in every respect by using the conceit of supernatural Satanism – placed at the forefront of the plot— to produce hyperkinetic scares that reach almost breaking point in the movie’s chaotic climax. But unlike Paranormal Activity, it is bound by the hands of its limited stock in the original scares departments. Sadly it falls foul to content of mainstream film makers of using second-hand scares, presumably angled to disguise its underlying banality. The movie is further hindered by the found footage style failing to allow any flashes of surrealism that is more in tune with the demonic impregnation premise than the found footage conceit itself.
Painfully obvious, bland and instantly forgettable, Devil’s Due is a Paranormal Activity wannabe that drowns in its self-indulgence and preference for recycled goods — rather than freshness.