Someday, this glut of found-footage horror movies will finally end. Right, America? You won’t keep making them absurdly profitable forever, will you? Because that forces filmmakers to keep coming up with slightly different variations on the same ol’ booga-booga, and the sense of creative exhaustion is becoming downright oppressive. The latest iteration, cutely titled Devil’s Due, is simply Rosemary’s Baby reconceived through the multiple fixed-camera lenses of Paranormal Activity, and while it’s generally above-average for this sorry genre, it’s so derivative, in both style and narrative, that there’s still an overwhelming sense of plodding inevitability to the whole affair. There are only so many ways to show characters recording freaky events in their own home, and they’ve all been duly explored by now.
What’s more, there’s an uncomfortable tinge of racism to this particular scenario. Newlyweds Samantha (Allison Miller) and Zach (Zach Gilford, formerly QB1 on Friday Night Lights) head to the Dominican Republic on their honeymoon, where a creepy palm reader (DeMaris Gordon) informs Sam that she was “born of death”—her parents were killed in a car accident while she was in utero—and that she’s “the first.” An equally creepy cab driver (Roger Payano) then spirits them to an underground rave, where the video camera Zach perpetually carries to document their relationship abruptly goes black, then catches brief glimpses of what’s clearly a satanic mass of some kind. The happy couple, who were drugged, have no memory of this (and don’t bother to look at their footage for ages), so they get excited when Sam discovers that she’s pregnant. Cue a very suspicious doctor (Robert Aberdeen), mysterious observers lurking near the house, and increasing signs that something is seriously wrong with both Sam and her growing fetus.
An epilogue set in Paris implies that Samantha actually is the first of many, but that doesn’t render the film’s use of the Dominican Republic as its locus of evil any more palatable. On the other hand, that trip is one of the few respects in which Devil’s Due diverges from the Rosemary’s Baby playbook, providing a brief respite from the feeling of déjà vu . Its most effective moments aren’t the big scares, but the credible rapport between Miller and Gilford over the course of the long, slow build-up. It’s a movie with enough dry wit to have Sam complain about a sign in her obstetrician’s office that illustrates the three stages of pregnancy using four pictures. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett are members of the Radio Silence collective and repeat many of the effects they used in their segment of V/H/S. All the same, enough is enough. This concept is played out, people. Please do not encourage it any further.