Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Perhaps Devil's Doo would be a better title

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LIKE it or not, the "found-footage" horror movie has become an inescapable Hollywood staple. Here's why: They can be filmed cheaply with a no-name cast, and still yield big bucks. On rare occasions (The Blair Witch Project, the first Paranormal Activity), they can actually be good movies.

More often, studios produce stuff like Devil's Due. The apostrophe in the title apparently delineates a contraction, not a possessive, which is the most clever thing about the film.

It's all downhill from there.

Co-directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, this movie outrageously begs comparison to Roman Polanski's 1968 classic Rosemary's Baby in that it's about a pregnancy from -- and of -- hell.

Newlyweds Zach (Zach Gilford) and Samantha (Allison Miller) are honeymooning in Santo Domingo when they encounter a bummer of a palm reader who tells the blushing bride, an orphan, that she was "born of death" and more ominously: "They are waiting."

They flee and end up in the clutches of a cab driver who insists on driving them to an authentic Santo Domingo underground party, where the couple drink themselves into a dangerous Rob Ford-worthy stupor. They awake the next morning in their hotel room wondering how they got back there. Sam soon learns she is pregnant.

Zach, who already has an annoying habit of videotaping most of his experiences, kicks it up a few notches to record Samantha throughout her pregnancy, as a gift to their unborn child.

One hopes the kid will have a high tolerance for supernatural cliché. As Sam's belly gets bigger, the devil-baby tropes get more strained. For example, in a homage to Mia Farrow's raw liver consumption in Rosemary's Baby, the vegetarian Samantha is caught by a supermarket surveillance camera chowing down on a package of raw meat.

Also, as in Rosemary, Samantha's caring doctor is replaced by an icy, suspiciously paternalistic physician. The couple also discover they are essentially under surveillance by mysterious strangers. It goes on.

Perhaps a more helpful approach to Devil's Due would focus on how the film doesn't resemble Rosemary's Baby. Gilford and Miller are unforgivably boring compared to Farrow and John Cassavetes. (Personal prejudice: Cassavetes's work in Rosemary's Baby is one of the great unsung horror movie performances ever.)

Instead of slowly ratcheting up the tension, a la Polanski, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett alternate exposition and jump-scares with clockwork regularity. To gratuitously kick it up, the directors throw in a tangential scene involving three teens and a couple of freshly slaughtered deer seems lifted right out of Paranormal Activity or Chronicle.

If a few scenes near the end manage to impress with their genre-specific Sturm und Drang, the film on the whole is a forgettable throwaway.

One is compelled to the conclusion that the true horror of studio-produced horror movies is that nobody seems to be trying anymore.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2014 G10

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