Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Rosemary's Less Interesting Baby

When making a horror movie in found footage stye, ask yourself a question:


I don’t mean that as an accusatory “found footage SUCKS!” declaration. I’ve liked and loved many a film made in that style, be it the powerful Megan Is Missing or the surprisingly fun The Visit. The subgenre itself is not a problem. The reasoning behind it, however, often is. 

Quick Plot: Sam and Zach McCall are an attractive and madly in love young couple enjoying their honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. On their last night there, they visit a shady palm reader who sees doom and death in Sam’s future. 

As all palm readers in horror movies do.

The McCalls hail a cab driven by a friendly and eager local who convinces them to hit one last nightclub before they go home. Naturally, said trip is a setup to get the couple wasted enough that a satanic cult can impregnate Sam with an evil spawn. 

Like I’m not telling you anything you didn’t know. Have you READ a travel book?

Back home, Sam and Zach are excited to welcome the new addition to their family...at first. It doesn’t take long for the vegetarian mom-to-be to start craving raw meat, getting massive nose bleeds, and causing her priest to have a demonic stroke in the middle of communion.

Thankfully, Zach has been documenting the entire process because like most of the young men starring in horror movies made during the 21st century, Zach really likes to hold a camera, record hundreds of hours of footage, and never watch a single frame. When he finally sits down to show his friends what his camera has caught, the footage disappears.

So I ask you: why the hell was this made as a found footage film?

In general, found footage is a choice that’s typically used to put the main characters closer to the point of view of the audience. You can shake your camera all you want if your viewers are fully in place. Other films, such as Meadowoods, might use the gimmick just because it works better with capturing a certain aspect of its characters or story.

Then there’s Devil’s Due.

I’d like to cite an IMDB trivia tidbit that might explain some of my bafflement with this movie:

The decision was made by the filmmakers to move the movie away from the previous "found footage" tropes (such as the use of a framing device, a linear narrative and a non-recognizable cast) and into a story "told through cameras that exist in the world of the characters" much like Chronicle. This is demonstrated throughout, including the deliberate absence of a framing device, the use of an animated opening quote, a recognizable cast, a non-chronological narrative structure and a final music cue that is playing in the taxi becomes the end-credits song.

So. We’re going to make our movie in found footage style, but we’re not going to make it that way for any reason whatsoever. We’re going to ask our audience to watch a movie heavy with shaky cam antics because, well, we’re doing something different. We’re going to throw alternate viewpoints that couldn’t possibly come from any recording device during or big finale because, well, we’re not following the rules of found footage so we don’t have to explain ourselves in any way.


Look, I’m in no way saying a movie can’t do its own thing. If you want to follow a found footage format for your first hour and switch to a standard narrative, that’s just FINE, District 9. But what co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (they of one of the mediocre V/H/S segments) do is simply mind bogglingly stupid. Why hamper your filmmaking with restrictions that do nothing to enhance the experience for your audience? Devil’s Due was probably never going to be a great movie, but as a straight narrative film, it might have at least have been watchable. Instead, the decision to show it as a collage of security cameras and cell phone video just makes it, well, pretty crappy.

High Points
They don’t get much at all to work with, but  the lead actors (Allison Miller and Friday Night Lights' Zach Gilford) are quite natural and do their best

Low Points
Aside from the many aforementioned drawbacks of found footage filmmaking, perhaps the most annoying and ubiquitous is how every male holding a camera has to, at a key moment, default into a chorus of “what the f#ck”

Lessons Learned
No matter how much you’re getting tossed around a forest like a frisbee by a cow-eating satanist, never, ever never, I really do mean never, drop your videocamera

The friendlier the cab driver, the higher the probability that he’s a satanist

Satanic pregnancy due date predictions are shockingly accurate

Devil’s Due might be of interest to those fascinated by pregnancy horror or found footage experts curious to see a new method of misusing the format. At 90 minutes, it won’t kill your kill your will to live, but considering how many better movies there are out there, why bother?

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