[img]http://popculturelandscape.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/devils-due-blu-ray.jpg[/img]Releasing/Participating Studio(s): 20th Century Fox
Disc/Transfer Information: Region A; 50GB Blu-ray Disc 1080p High Definition 1.85::1 (Original Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett
Starring Cast: Zach Gilford, Allison Miller, Sam Anderson, Griff Furst
FEAR IS BORN.
Here we go, yet again, my friends…in the wake of the original Paranormal Activity – though many film critics argue this nonsense began with The Blair Witch Project – comes amateurish Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s Devil’s Due, a kind of Rosemary’s Baby-meets-modern-day-camcorder-perspective-exploitations of another “horror” flick targeting today’s immediate-minded youth in that utterly annoying “from the lens of the camera” perspective that is still all the rage. Why? I really don’t know. The template is kept basic and parallel to all the other films using this method up until this point, the film itself clocking in at just under an hour and a half (the standard for these nonsensical films) and the entire production seen from the perspective of some kind of camera, whether it’s from one of the main characters or those installed in his house by a band of religious cult nuts (I’ll get to this). The biggest problem is…haven’t we already seen this ? Before Devil’s Due we had the aforementioned Paranormal Activities, that awful Amityville “found footage” film, The Last Exorcism and its follow-ups and a handful more of these titles suggesting these events actually transpired due to the “real time” date and time of day running at the corner of the screen in every shot to say nothing of the blatant way Paramount lied with regard to its Paranormal Activity franchise, making us believe the “San Diego Police Department” was involved in the “found footage” of “Micha” and “Katie’s” unfortunate demonic encounters in their lovely Southern California home (though she didn’t work and he was a self-proclaimed “day trader” sitting in pajamas all day and night…yeah right…and they’re affording Los Angeles living expenses?). There should almost be a ban against making these kind of exploitation films it’s gotten so stupid and off-putting, but my only guess is that studios continue greenlighting them because the young iPod generation relates to this type of “horror” based on its everything-in-real-time characteristics as they’re not capable of sitting through anything else.
Shot in that shaky, unsteady perspective of a camcorder – or perhaps a more modern mobile-esque device; honestly, I didn’t care – Devil’s Due starts out with a graphical on-screen message quoting parts of the scriptures which suggest “multiple antichrists” will be born into our world. Where the tile of the film leads us to believe the Devil himself is about to become a guest of an unlucky hospital’s maternity ward, that’s actually not the case – and that notion ends up being one of the most remotely interesting, if not somewhat weird, aspects of the story, especially in the film’s final frame. We then meet the idiotic Zach McCall, you know, the young stud who can get any lady he pretty much wants and who has a full head of hair and everything going for him (in other words, a complete…well…you know what I was going to call him…which we all envy but can’t be), played by Zach Gilford, who follows his new bride Samantha (Allison Miller) around everywhere, filming her (as in all these other similar “found footage” films). The young suburban couple, of course with no real-world cares or troubles (yet), set out on their honeymoon which ends up being somewhere in South America (why oh why do you young people like to indulge in these fantasies of going to a remote jungle to find some drinking spots that are “unique” and “party-esque inspiring” just so you can say you did it? Didn’t it ever occur to any of you that these places are dangerous, isolated and…well…filthy and you should stay away from them? No? Never occurred to you? Thought so…back to our regularly scheduled program…). When they are picked up by a weird taxi driver that takes them to an underground “club” of some kind so that they can have a good time during their last night in this vagrant dump of a city they’re in, we know things are gonna start getting weird. And indeed they do.
As Samantha begins to consume ungodly amounts of alcohol and Zach continues to record all this on his phone or camera or whatever, the action immediately shifts to this recording device picking up the young newly-married bride’s body being taken by a group of weird people where some kind of “ceremony” is performed on her, seemingly allowing some supernatural force to enter her – but this is all after the couple stop into a streetside psychic who freaks them out when she reads Samantha’s hand and predicts that she was “born of death” and warns of some kind of impending “happening” getting ready to occur in the girl’s life. Though spooked, the couple decide to “party on” and take the invitation of this weirdo cab driver which ends up being a trap, of course, so Samantha can become part of some ritualistic cult’s ceremony. Apparently, new husband Zach was unconscious during this as well, because the camera that picks up what happens in the strange room suggests he must have been knocked out during the ceremony and unable to help his new wife.
The camera action, still being shot by Zach after all this craziness on their honeymoon, then shifts to the next morning when the couple is supposed to leave to come back to the States; Samantha questions how the two of them got back to their hotel room from that weird underground club they were in while also taking notice of strange bruising on her legs. Thinking nothing of it in the moment, the couple return home as Zach continues videotaping their opening of wedding gifts and other goings-on at the house; eventually (as if we couldn’t see this coming) Sam tells Zach that she’s pregnant even though she had been taking the birth control religiously. The couple see a doctor, who claims all the tests on the baby are 100-percent normal according to the sonograms and such, yet Sam begins to slowly exhibit very strange behaviors including wild, unbridled and inhuman-like strength, attitude sweeps, personality disruptions and eventually the symptoms we see in all these supernatural thrillers a la Paranormal Activity, the prerequisite “staring into space with possessed eyes.”
As the weeks pass, Sam’s symptoms get more and more bizarre to the point she is convinced there’s something wrong with her baby. They return to the doctor only to find out she has left on a “leave of absence” and won’t be coming back. The replacement doctor acts suspicious and very indifferent to the couple’s previous doctor’s condition or whereabouts, and he ends up playing a very pivotal role in the film. When Zach expresses to him the way Sam has been thinking there is something wrong with the baby inside her, he ensures the kid “they will be keeping an eye on her.” And indeed, they do – the strange cult that had abducted Sam sets up shop in an abandoned house on the couple’s block and installs hidden cameras in their house to watch their activities day and night; this also solves a problem, from a filming standpoint, of having the “Zach” character continuously walk around with a camera through the film, with the cameras now installed in their house taking over the “perspective priority” for us, the viewers.
In a particularly disturbing sequence highlighting the “changes” Sam is going through since her “spontaneous pregnancy,” the couple attend a communion ritual for a kid of someone they know (not sure if it was one of their siblings or a friend) in their local church and the priest, Father Thomas (Sam Anderson), is suddenly and invisibly attacked during the ceremony, blood pouring out of his nose and a presence forcing him down on the floor; the church breaks into a panic while we see the priest staring right at Sam, who has taken on some creepy red eyes in quick shots as she sits silent in the row of seats. Obviously, there’s something inside her that doesn’t like anything to do with the church or what it stands for.
Zach struggles to cope with everything that’s going on with his new wife – I bet at this point he was sorry he ever married this nutty broad – and eventually watches the old footage captured during their honeymoon and which depicts Sam being dragged to some kind of ritual room where she’s “infiltrated” by some kind of spiritual force; he then notices a clip of someone attending the weird ritual, which turns out to be the same cab driver who took them to this underground bar. As the pieces come together, Zach goes to see Father Thomas, who is now in the hospital recovering from the “attack” at church and who clings to his religious icons in his hands. The confused, terrified young man attempts to ask Father Thomas about the strange markings all over his house that seem to coincide with demonic and Devilish icons, while trying to get answers about why his wife is behaving the way she is. A blatantly shook up and terrified Father Thomas babbles something to Zach about the “many antichrists” that will be born upon this world – and that Zach must leave his presence immediately. Weird, indeed.
Of course, this is all setting up the final sequence of the film which depicts Zach breaking into the strange abandoned house only to find the video monitors that are connected to the cameras that have been placed inside his house by this weird cult; when he runs into what appears to be the cab driver from South America that started all this, he’s freaked and runs off to his own house, which is now surrounded by strange figures in the darkness and who are members of the ritualistic cult. Inside, a now fully-possessed Samantha continues digging demonic symbols into the wood floor of their bedroom while husband Zach is thrown about the room in a hysterical demonic temper tantrum by whatever force is inhabiting his new wife’s body. Finally, the terrified and possessed young girl carves into her stomach attempting to “get out” whatever it is that’s inside her, the baby eventually being taken by one of the leaders of the cult who turns out to be the replacement doctor the couple had seen weeks earlier. That explains his strange behavior and the way in which he wouldn’t answer questions about their previous doctor…
Suddenly, the video cuts to a bloodied, filthy and exhausted Zach being interrogated by detectives at a police station; apparently, they are convinced he killed his wife and “did something” to their baby based on the blood he’s covered in. He attempts to explain what happened to them in South America…the strange cab driver…the underground party…the cult that abducted them and impregnated Samantha…but the cops want “the real story” from him. What follows is the video perspective cutting to another young, just-married couple honeymooning in Paris when they’re approached by the same cab driver who offers to take them “someplace fun”…the underlying notion here being that indeed multiple antichrists are being born into the world, and this cult impregnates certain women to bring about their births.
At the end of the day, this was yet another re-hashing of Paranormal Activity that really had no genuine essence; I get the whole fascination with “bringing the Devil back into the world” as portrayed by Rosemary’s Baby, but Devil’s Due was no Rosemary’s Baby with Mia Farrow…not even close. And this fascination with “from the camera’s perspective” in modern horror cinema has to stop as it’s really tiring and annoying now; we’ve already had the wool pulled over our eyes in things like Paranormal Activity…do we need to continue to be lied to and made to believe these things happened because a video recording says so?
I think I’m getting too old for these…
Oh – look for an interesting part when Sam has finally come under the influence of this presence inside her and is carving up some helpless deer in the wilderness near her house, attracting the attention of some other youngsters in the area who are unfortunately subjected to her “new powers”…
[img]https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRhDSfxwFaO5vWW-VJVVJsCC_WWdVteEwE7mgo0Y1yWi3OP3F9Y[/img]VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC LOOK?
I wasn’t expecting much going into the video aspects of Devil’s Due, based on the simple fact that it was taking the “video capture perspective” which is normally grainy and noisy in characteristics – you know what? The film looked anything but. 20th Century Fox delivers an outstanding looking 1.85:1 Blu-ray transfer here on its 50GB BD, with bright, sharp contrast and incredibly clean, crisp visuals. The entire presentation, which appeared without letterboxing on my display, looked like it was filmed on an HD camera – and that was most likely what they were going for – with the whole canvas appearing sharp as a tack, clean and absolutely bursting with detail.
Exterior shots on the 1.85:1 transfer looked tremendous and brilliant, but when the action shifted inside, even during very dark sequences, the transfer held up and didn’t exhibit much, if any, noise or macroblocking; likewise, flesh tones appeared spot on and oversaturation didn’t appear to be an issue. The sequence in which Zach goes to visit the priest in the hospital in particular was striking in this regard, with a rock-solid image and explosive detail that reminded me of a 4K demo I saw recently and which really blew me away. This was a fantastic video presentation from Fox, especially given the subject material.
[img]http://collider.com/wp-content/uploads/devils-due-allison-miller-zach-gilford.jpg[/img]AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC SOUND?
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, in 5.1, wasn’t as impressive as the video presentation but it got the job done with anchored, centered dialogue and noteworthy soundstage movement when called upon. In these types of films – a la Paranormal Activity – not much goes on for a majority of the running time until the devious spirits begin to act up or take possession of someone; as such, these films, as it was with Devil’s Due, remain dialogue heavy and restrained to the center channel. When strange, Devilish occurrences begin to rear their ugly heads, the soundtrack responded with appropriate panning and channel identification. LFE appeared to be on the weaker side, but this was due – no pun intended – to the nature of the material here and the fact that we are supposed to be watching events that transpired via a video recording of some kind.
For the most part, the Master Audio mix was effective for the subject material, keeping dialogue firmly locked in the center for the majority of the film but spreading both dialogue and effects into the appropriate surrounding channels when called upon. One scene that stood out for me was when the camera perspective is closing in on a ritual being performed and the audio cues swept from the left front channel to the middle in a convincing, almost unsettling way; there were some other brief moments like that in the film as well, but don’t expect Gladiator or G.I. Joe: Retaliation here.
As a sucker for demonic/possession films and stories, I was curious to check out Devil’s Due; it ended up being, as I suspected, another one of these Paranormal Activity rip-offs with absolutely nothing new to offer the genre. The whole “from the camera angle” thing is getting tiring, honestly, and they need to hang this elementary, somewhat amateurish filmmaking tactic up already. If you are curious, give it a rental…but it’s far from a buy as far as I’m concerned.
As always, thanks for reading – and I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts if you did see it.