MRR Review: "Devil's Due"

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Rating: R
Length: 89
Release Date: Jan. 17, 2014
Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Genre: Horror

Expecting a first baby is usually a joyous occasion, but it can also be stressful. New parents have to field dozens of choices, from naming the baby to choosing a pediatrician. It might be comforting for nervous parents to watch "Devil's Due." After viewing this horror movie from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, choosing the colors for the nursery wall will seem like a total breeze in comparison. "Devil's Due" is like the demonic offspring of 1968's "Rosemary's Baby" and found footage horror classics such as 2007's "Paranormal Activity." Borrowing elements from various horror films, the movie makes up for its lack of originality with some solid scares.

Zach (Zach Gilford) and Samantha McCall (Allison Miller) are enjoying one of life's biggest milestones together. While Zach films their newlywed life for posterity, the two head out to the Dominican Republic for their honeymoon. What should be an idyllic and exotic vacation takes a dark turn when the two wind up at a mysterious nightclub. The next morning, they wake up in their hotel without any memory of the previous night. Brushing it off as the result of too much alcohol, Zach and Samantha head back home and try to settle into their routine as a married couple.

The old adage about a baby carriage following marriage proves all too true for Zach and Samantha. However, in the McCalls' case, the positive pregnancy test shows up much sooner than they planned, and Samantha has even been taking her birth control pills, leading to some confusion. Ultimately, though, Zach and Samantha are excited about bringing a little McCall into the world. Treating the pregnancy as a happy surprise, they waste little time in letting everybody know that they will soon be new parents.

Most pregnant women deal with morning sickness and weight gain. Samantha has to deal with some extra surprises, and they aren't pleasant ones. Although she's a staunch vegetarian, Samantha can't seem to stem her cravings for red meat. Her personality shifts in disturbing ways. Usually a sweet young woman, Samantha's maternal instinct kicks into high gear and push her toward aggressive outbursts. Instead of decorating the new nursery with cute curtains, Samantha prefers carving into the floor.

Zach begins to realize that his new bride is undergoing changes that the parenting books don't mention. More than that, he realizes that their new obstetrician might not be entirely trustworthy. With dangerous events unfolding all around the McCalls, the couple will have to uncover the true origins of the unborn baby. As Samantha spirals out of control and ominous figures appear out of the woodwork, Zach and Samantha have to fight for their lives. Instead of starting a new family together, the two start to feel like helpless pawns in a legacy that extends far beyond their understanding.

"Devil's Due" doesn't set out to reinvent the found footage genre. When "The Blair Witch Project" came out in 1999, the premise of discovering lost footage seemed almost believable. By this time, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett don't seem to be too concerned with honoring the limitations of the found footage premise. Although Zach is supposed to have a love for home movies, this still doesn't entirely explain some of the footage. Audiences will occasionally need to suspend their disbelief and just go with the story. Without the pressure of using a found footage framework, though, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett could possibly have created a richer and more complex movie. The payoffs of the style don't entirely justify the drawbacks.

All the same, "Devil's Due" is solidly creepy and suspenseful. Gilford and Miller have a nice chemistry as a loving, ordinary young couple. Audiences will have no trouble rooting for the two. Their wholesome charm only makes the story all the more disturbing when things take a demonic turn.

Pregnancy and parenthood can be intimidating for anybody. When filmmakers take these ordinary fears and build them into something bigger and darker, the result is a horror story that unsettles while it scares. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett interweave elements of different horror classics to make a chilling and effective new film. The idea of a demonic baby is not a fresh idea, but "Devil's Due" respects the creepiness of the genre and brings an ancient horror trope into the modern world. Although the movie may not have especially gory or shocking scenes, its scariness is effective because it's so slow to simmer. The subtlety of the movie lies in the changes that Samantha must undergo. From bruising to nosebleeds, this is a lingering horror that will stick with viewers.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5