By Shane M. Dallmann
And just like last week, the opening studio logo goes “sputter-fitz” as we herk and jerk into the second consecutive “camcorder” horror film of the young year.
Why am I here? Because last week I caught PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES in spite of myself and was surprised to find that it was actually pretty good. Here’s the thing: in PATMO, we got characters who stumbled into something and kept investigating it throughout the story even as worse and worse things started to happen… basically, we learned what was going on at the same pace that the characters themselves did, and it stayed interesting (not to mention frequently scary).
Now comes DEVIL’S DUE, and, well, it’s one of those that starts with an ominous Bible verse and then cuts straight to the nasty aftermath of whatever just went on before telling you the rest of the story. So, the opening quote tells you it’s about the birth of the Antichrist, and the very first scene pretty much spells out how it’s going to turn out. So, if you choose to stick around, you’re going to spend minute after agonizing minute waiting for the movie to finally get around to showing you what you already know.
You’ve got to sit through the pre-wedding banter. The wedding. The reception. The honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. The fortune teller. The cabbie who insists on taking the otherwise hopelessly lost newlyweds to a “really fun place.” (I thought he might be setting them up for a mugging, and that was a scarier idea than anything that actually happens in this movie.) THEN we finally get to the unexpected pregnancy and the initial “something’s wrong” jitters.
On and on and on we go with this rehash. But don’t blame the ancient concept. Not a bit of it. We’ve seen more than enough times that if a filmmaker truly has a vision and an attitude about even the most hackneyed, old-school ideas that he can still score a knockout. That’s how you get THE CONJURING and YOU’RE NEXT! (be honest–if I had just given you a brief plot summary of either one of those, would you have cared?). But more often than not, you just get some guys who said “Hey, that worked in THAT movie, so let’s do it in OURS!” This time around, unsurprisingly, it’s slavish PARANORMAL ACTIVITY imitation to a point that PATMO itself never even reached. (Try this on for size: our leading lady decides to take a bath at an extreme distance from the camera which just happens to be running on a desktop or some such. But after she gets in the bath, the camera turns… ALL BY ITSELF, oh, no!!!… and starts zooming in on her in the tub… and then they abruptly cut to the next scene which starts with the dog barking at the camera, which is supposed to make you jump. But they already did the “just the dog” jump scare within the first five minutes. Was there a POINT to any of this business?) You see, PATMO knew how to be just different enough to recapture my attention. But while I’m at it? We’re apparently getting a new entry called PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 5 later this year? Wouldn’t that be the sixth film in the series now? Except if they’re trying to say PATMO doesn’t “really count,” even you know it actually DOES “count” if you saw it?
Notice how I’d rather be watching last week’s movie again than talking about this one? Okay… is there ANYTHING at all good about DEVIL’S DUE? It’s not one of those amateur hour DTV products where nobody knows how to use a camera and the actors don’t know how to act… but that just makes things all the worse, as these guys could and should have tried harder (it was directed by two of the V/H/S guys, but what they saw in THIS story, which they did not concoct on their own, baffles me). Oh, there’s the title itself, which, upon reflection, qualifies as a decent bit of wordplay. But you know what I’m going to do because I’m mad at the movie AND the studio for wasting my time? I’m going to be petty and change the title of this movie to DEVIL’S ULTIMATE DUE just so I can call it DUD for short.
I spent nearly every painful minute of this film wanting to walk out and wondering why I was preventing myself from doing so. What did I think was going to happen to make things better? I could have been reading a book. I could have been solving a logic problem. I could have been catching up with my video reviews. I could have been training myself to sing in Italian (if you’ve never heard it, I’ll have you know that I’ve got one FINE singing voice if I do say so myself). I could have been experimenting with the possibilities of rubber cement as a substitute for chewing gum. I could have been giving peanuts to squirrels.
It’s too late for me. But don’t do what I did. Don’t sacrifice the tiniest fraction of your life by even glancing at a mere moment of this utter DUD.