I’m “biast” (con): found-footage is getting old
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
There are many lessons to be learned from this she’s-having-Satan’s-baby yawner of a flick. Don’t let taxi drivers in strange cities in Caribbean nations infamous for creepy religious cults take you someplace mysterious and “special” to celebrate the last night of your honeymoon. When you wake up the next morning with no memory of what happened, don’t fail to check your camcorder, in case it was still running during the satanic ritual you may have been an unwitting party to. But mostly, if you’re going to make a found-footage movie, make sure it makes even the slightest bit of sense.
This is the problem: A found-footage movie is supposedly more than merely a film for our putative enjoyment. It’s supposed to be a document, an artifact, of the world it’s set in. If the found footage is from one source — say, the memory card from the videocam some idiot used to record an investigation into a witch legend, or a monster attack, or, ahem, his own honeymoon — then, sure, this one tape was literally “found.” But when the “found-footage” consists of material edited together from multiple sources in ways that fail all plausibility tests, then something is badly wrong.
I mean, look: I can buy that Samantha McCall (Allison Miller: 17 Again), a newlywed young woman still in school who doesn’t even want to be pregnant yet and had taken responsible steps to prevent it, might have gotten knocked up by Old Scratch in some crazy evil candlelit rite in the basement of a nightclub in Santo Domingo. What I cannot figure out, for the life of me, is this: Who assembled this footage? It cannot be her husband, Zach (Zach Gilford: The Last Stand, Post Grad), the dude with the video-documenting fetish, because as the film opens, we’re seeing police-interview video of him covered in blood being asked to explain just what happened — which we know he won’t be able to do because what cop or lawyer or jury is gonna believe “it wasn’t me it was Satan”? (And we know it was Satan responsible for whatever we’re about to watch in flashback, because the title tells us so.) But even if we could concoct a scenario in which he is exonerated and goes on to do some editing, huge chunks of the film consist of footage from cameras Satan’s minions secrete in the McCall house and other material that he doesn’t have access to and, in other cases, is probably not even aware of. The only other possible explanation is that the minions of Satan did some editing (using Lucifer’s supernatural powers to find the other footage), but why? They’re doing all their demonic babymaking in secret: they’d hardly assemble in one handy place all the evidence against them that reveals their diabolical plan.
I had plenty of opportunity to contemplate all this because there’s nothing the least bit diverting actually onscreen in Devil’s Due. Unless you enjoy watching the home movies of a very nice but utterly bland upper-middle-class couple with a Pottery Barn lifestyle. (How do they afford that incredibly huge McMansion? What does Zach do for a living? Is he just rich? We know Sam has no money because she grew up in foster homes, a potentially interesting tangent about her unknown past that is never followed up on.) We’re just waiting for something devilish to happen, and mostly when it comes, it’s unsurprising clichéd nonsense pranks that you’ve seen in every other movie about the Prince of Darkness.
What I want to know is this: You’d think by now Satan would have learned to be a little more subtle. If he doesn’t want people catching on to his tricks, he could dispense with all the ooks and the spooky and the dropping hints at every opportunity that he’s got his maleficent fingers in the goings-on. Keep a lower profile, why doncha, dude? That wouldn’t make for a terribly engaging movie, but frankly, neither does this old-hat haunty stuff anymore.