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Movie Reviews

Plugged In Rating
Content Caution
MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Drama, Horror, Mystery/Suspense
Cast
Allison Miller as Samantha McCall; Zach Gilford as Zach McCall; Sam Anderson as Father Thomas; Roger Payano as Cab Driver; Vanessa Ray as Suzie; Donna Duplantier as Dr. Ludka; DeMaris Gordon as Psychic; Robert Aberdeen as Dr. Dylan
Director
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Distributor
20th Century Fox
In Theaters
January 17, 2014
Reviewer
Adam R. Holz
Devil's Due

Devil's Due

Generally speaking, when a film begins by quoting Scripture, it's a good thing.

Not so much when 1 John 2:18 gets trotted out as the precursor to footage of a badly bloodied man in police custody insisting, "I didn't do it!" We get the message pretty quickly then that this isn't going to end well. And we get the message too that this is going to be a long, ugly, horrible movie.

The passage? "Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour."

Thirty minutes before that last hour, though, things actually get started with hope and joy and newlyweds Zach and Samantha McCall. They're giddily eager to spend their lives together, so much so that Zach films every moment for posterity, not wanting to miss a single thing—thus providing us with the "found footage" we're watching.

The last night of their honeymoon in the Dominican Republic, they get lost on the way back to their hotel. A surprisingly helpful cabbie promises to take them back, but suggests they should first have a drink at a local hotspot he helpfully recommends. One drink turns into two, then … more. After that, things get hazy.

The next morning, Zach and Sam find themselves somewhat miraculously back in their hotel room. Neither feels very good. But Sam's definitely the worse for wear, throwing up on the flight home (and telling her husband he doesn't actually have to film that).

She is, of course, pregnant.

Zach's thrilled beyond belief when her pregnancy test shows positive. "You're making a person," he gushes. "It's so amazing."

And so it would be if the zygote zipping around in Sam's womb weren't the spawn of Satan. It's a horribly tragic outcome (and horribly clichéd horror movie plot point) that Zach gradually figures out as his blushing bride's demonic gestation grows increasingly violent.

Positive Elements

Zach and Sam are a remarkably likeable couple. And by horror movie standards, Zach's earnest, almost childlike anticipation of his forthcoming marriage to Sam feels genuinely refreshing. He simply can't wait to get married. Accordingly, he carries on at length about his desire to digitally document every moment of their first days as husband and wife so they can watch the footage years later and remember how deliriously in love they were. At one point, Zach tells Sam (by way of the camera), "I love you so much. I promise I will always protect you and keep you safe." (Right!)

Zach is just as excited about the prospect of their new baby as he was about getting married. And then, when he begins to suspect that something is wretchedly wrong with his pregnant wife, he does everything he can to figure out what's happening and live up to his promise of protection. (He's wholly unsuccessful, but that's really beside the point in this section.)

Spiritual Content

Our first rather significant hint that things are about to go very, very wrong for this couple comes when Sam drags Zach in to see a psychic on their honeymoon. As the woman reads Sam's palm, she quickly goes from generalized platitudes like "You've had hard times. Now you're so happy" to fearfully intoning, "You were born for death. They've been waiting. They've been waiting. They've been waiting. They've been waiting."

The they in question, Zach learns much later from his terrified Catholic priest, is a secret sect of devil worshippers who've sought for millennia to wipe out Christianity. Their strategy? Kidnapping certain women (who, indeed, have apparently been under surveillance and carefully chosen) and inviting Satan to impregnate them.

Zach's camera captures flashes of that awful rite, wherein we see an unconscious Samantha lying in the middle of a spiritual rune, hear a Latin chant, and then hear a rushing wind enter the room. It blows out the surrounding candles … and ruffles Sam's dress upward. As Sam's pregnancy progresses, she increasingly has lapses where she's essentially possessed by the being inside her. At first her actions in this spiritually hijacked state are subtle (scrawling that same rune into the nursery floor, for example). Then they become more ominous and deadly as she begins violently manifesting telekinetic powers that eventually kill several people.

It's also safe to say that the being growing in Sam does not like going to church. At a Catholic ceremony celebrating young congregants' first communion, we hear the hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy" and watch as the priest invites the children to take the Eucharist after saying that they had each invited "our Lord Jesus Christ into [their] souls." That's more than the fetid fetus can handle, apparently: Soon the priest has a massive nosebleed, followed by a stroke.

Near the end, a bloody birth scene takes place within the now-glowing runes Sam has scrawled, with Zach pinned helplessly against the wall and unable to combat his wife's supernatural takeover.

But the passage from 1 John mentions multiple antichrists, and so the film concludes with the same cab driver offering to take another couple to a club, this time in Paris. The implication is that the sect is kidnapping women all over the world and that other devilish progeny are being birthed for some unspoken—but no doubt dark—purpose.

Sexual Content

Zach sneaks into Sam's bedroom the night before their wedding, and she's shown in a towel after having just gotten out of the shower. Later, we see part of her bare torso as she removes her towel. Sam is also shown in a skimpy bikini on the beach (as Zach says he wants to do a Sports Illustrated-style photo shoot of her in the ocean). She also shows off her underwear.

At the doctor's office for their first prenatal appointment, Sam's OB/GYN tells her that even though birth control pills are 99% effective, there are still rare cases in which women get pregnant while using them. The doctor winks at Zach, who then brags about his "strong sperm." Later, buying baby stuff at a big-box baby store, Zach jokingly puts a breast pump on his crotch.

Violent Content

While possessed, Sam forcefully grabs her husband's arm and screams at her young niece, giving the girl a nasty nosebleed. With her bare hands, Sam bashes in three windows of an SUV that nearly backs into her.

From there, things get really grim.

Three teens (who are shooting a video, of course) stumble across a deer that Sam has apparently ritually disemboweled in a wooded area. Then they find her perhaps eating the entrails of another unfortunate creature—and she kills all three in a rage, hurtling them through the air with her telekinetic powers. (We see one guy plunge down through a car's windshield, to bloody effect.)

Sam's next victim: Zach's poor sister, Suzie, whom she brutally tosses around a room. We hear more than we see, lots of screams and thumps. Then we glimpse Suzie's bloodied, crumpled corpse.

While Sam sleeps, we see a bulge rise horrifically and unnaturally in her abdomen, Alien-style. Another grimace-inducing moment comes when a doctor inserts a massive needle into Sam's stomach to perform an amniocentesis. She screams through the whole procedure … as Zach grinds away on his camera.

When it's time for the creature to be born, the house's walls and floors are already slick with Suzie's spilled blood. Sam adds more when she uses a ceremonial circumcision knife to perform what amounts to a C-section on herself. Sect members lurk close by, swooping in to grab the baby and cut the cord as Sam expires and her husband watches hopelessly and helplessly.

Crude or Profane Language

About 40 f-words (including three connected to "mother") and more than 20 s-words. God's name is misused at least 15 times (once with "d‑‑n"), and Jesus' is abused a half-dozen more. We hear two or three uses of "a‑‑."

Drug and Alcohol Content

Several scenes show people drinking wine, beer and champagne in contexts such as nightclubs and the wedding reception. At the club that the cabbie takes them to, we watch as the newlyweds have first one, then another shot, and it's implied that there are enough after that to nearly knock them out. The fact that the cabbie watches carefully the whole time suggests that their drinks may have been spiked.

Other Negative Elements

We hear Sam vomiting (twice). She tears into raw hamburger at the grocery store, freaking out her fellow customers. Members of the sect keep a close eye on Sam, going so far as to rig the couple's house with cameras hidden in virtually every room. (This invasion of privacy also conveniently allows the story to move forward without the film's director always having to use Zach's camera.)

Conclusion

Part Rosemary's Baby, part Omen, and part Blair Witch Project, Devil's Due delivers the bloody, misbegotten offspring of cannibalized Christianity, Satan worship and devil-spawn mumbo-jumbo. It begins by highlighting the beauty of marriage, then spends the balance of its far-too-long 89 minutes tearing that blessed union apart … literally.

There's no redemption in the end, and no hope. There's only a man falsely imprisoned, his dreams of marital bliss utterly and bizarrely shattered. Oh, and the suffocating suggestion that there's a legion of babies out there who all call the devil daddy.

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