Massachusetts Daily Collegian

‘Devil’s Due’ is diabolically disappointing

By Paul Bagnall

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Going to see a new horror movie on the big screen should be an exhilarating experience. The suspense and tension of this macabre genre, when done well, grips the audience, awakening its fears of the unknown.

“Devil’s Due,” directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, is one of the newest found footage horror movies to start the New Year, as it was released on Jan. 17. Their last horror movie outing was found footage anthology “V/H/S” (2012), which didn’t have the privilege to grace national theater screens. Despite this bigger stage on which to prove themselves, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillet’s latest outing proves to be a dull and underwhelming film.

The story begins with newlyweds Samantha (Allison Miller) and Zach McCall (Zach Gilford) on their honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. On the last night of the starry-eyed lovers’ honeymoon, they’re invited to a club by their cab driver (Roger Payano) for a few drinks and dancing. Unbeknownst to the couple is that a diabolical cult has slipped them both a mickey to prepare for the birth of the Anti-Christ.

The problems with the film are clear within the first five minutes of screen time. This is probably the cleanest and sharpest POV horror movie I’ve ever seen, which defuses any kind of atmosphere with sharp and expertly focused cinematography and lighting.

The helpless victim of “Devil’s Due” is not Samantha, but the suspense. The movie drags its knuckles with every jump scare and thinly veiled plot twist, leaving little room for any sort of subtlety. The jump scares and shocks were so telegraphed it was like I’d invited an annoying friend that would point out twists before they happened on screen.

The ineptitude of the script really shows in the droning dialog between the new married couple, which feels like watching two people bang two rocks together. That actually sounds more entertaining than snoring through this tensionless mess.

The pacing suffers as well. “Devil’s Due” is possibly the slowest found footage horror flick to come out in recent memory. I had to be jolted awake with a jump scare in the same fashion a teenager would do when poking a dead-looking body.

Screenwriter Lindsay Devlin, whose previous work includes only the documentary, “In So Many Words,” has proven she can’t write very good horror. Her most glaring weakness lies in her inability to transition from scene to scene, each one feeling clumsier and more jarring than the last.

The scenes itself suffer from poor execution as well. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett, on a few occasions, utterly fail to establish new characters and where they’re coming from, something that is vital in more traditional Hollywood films, never mind one of this genre. Quite a few times, incredible leaps were made between cuts that leave you in the dark until things are explained at a painstakingly slow pace.

There are also a few scenes that incorporate an adventure camera that Mr. McCall attaches to his shirt, giving the viewer a first-person perspective to add tension. Andrzej Bartkowiak’s 2005 film “Doom” did the same thing with this perspective that also failed. It felt like I was watching the directors play a first-person horror video game with these scenes, except I forgot to bring my controller to join in on the fun.

“Devil’s Due” brings nothing new to the horror genre. The pacing is slow and the plot points are predictable. The characters aren’t interesting, any sense of suspense and atmosphere is missing and the cinematography is overproduced for a film of this genre. If you’re in desperate need of a cure for rampant insomnia, “Devil’s Due” is a must-watch. Otherwise, spare your eyes from this unholy abomination so you can maintain your faith in found footage horror.

Paul Bagnall can be reached at [email protected]

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