At least there’s a credible premise in “Devil’s Due,” an otherwise feeble exercise in the found-footage form. All newlyweds these days seem to record everything in their lives — especially when the first born is due. Hence, there is a plausible explanation for some of the material cobbled together by the directors, “V/H/S” alumni Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett.
And the film also draws on a resonant horror theme. Beautiful though it might be, doesn’t the process of pregnancy and birth evoke primitive terror? A fear of demonic possession, plus the prospect of introducing a stranger into one’s life who will be needing attention for at least the next 21 years? Hence films such as “The Omen” (1976), “It’s Alive” (1974), “The Brood” (1979), and “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968).
Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett have obviously seen those films. Evidently, though, their young camera-happy couple, Samantha (Allison Miller) and Zach (Zach Gilford), have not. They might shoot a lot of video about themselves, but they don’t seem to have watched many movies. Nor do they have common sense.
Like, if you’re on your honeymoon and lost in a foreign city after an unpleasant encounter with a palm reader, is it smart to jump into a stranger’s car? Haven’t they seen what happens to American tourists in “Hostel?” Samantha and Zach get off easy, though, waking up in their hotel hung over and with little memory of the night’s events. Should they check out their video and see what happened? They should, but they don’t.
Somebody has been watching, though, and not just those unfortunates in the audience. Someone has gathered together not only Samantha and Zach’s narcissistic noodlings but also footage from supermarket and parking lot security cameras, police interrogation tapes, and the recordings from the dozen or so surveillance cameras some people with a special interest in Samantha’s pregnancy have installed in their home. It’s at this point that the found-footage concept — that the movie is real and not an artifice — falls apart. In fact, it is the most artificial movie genre of all. Though every shot has some plausible, real-life explanation, the question that remains (besides my own concerns about the safety of their dog, the most interesting character in the movie) is who has “found” all this footage and edited it together? And how can we make them stop?
Peter Keough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.