Twentieth Century Fox delivers Devil’s Due, starring “Terra Nova’s” Allison Miller and “Friday Night Lights'” Zach Gilford, next week on January 17th.
The Lindsay Devlin-penned horror film comes from Radio Silence, who collectively delivered the final short on the original V/H/S anthology from last year. In the film, “After a mysterious, lost night on their honeymoon, a newlywed couple finds themselves dealing with an earlier-than-planned pregnancy. While recording everything for posterity, the husband begins to notice odd behavior in his wife that they initially write off to nerves, but, as the months pass, it becomes evident that the dark changes to her body and mind have a much more sinister origin.”
Head below for an almost spoiler free account of some footage I saw a while back during a presentation moderated by Eli Roth!
Back on December 12th, Fox invited me and a few other journalists down to their lot to check out some footage from their impending satanic pregnancy opus The Devil’s Due, directed by Radio Silence (you may remember them from the awesome “10-31-98” conclusion to the original V/H/S).
Usually I’m fairly leery of footage presentations. Why not just show us the entire movie? Well, in this case I’m not all that skeptical and I’ll break down why in three reasons. 1: The only time Fox has done this with me before was with Chronicle. I actually left that presentation a little dubious of the film but it wound up being pretty great. 2: I have nothing but trust in Radio Silence. 3: The footage I did see was f*cking awesome and indicates a truly fun, kinetic and gory found footage experience. I’ll readily admit that I’m tiring of the studio iteration of the POV format, but Devil’s Due seems like a welcome, inventive exception.
Apparently horror luminary Eli Roth feels the same way. He saw the entire film a few days prior to the event and agreed to come down and lend his support for the project. After the footage played (more thoughts on that below) he guided the four directors that comprise Radio Silence (Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, Chad Villella and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin) through a Q&A with the journalists onhand.
Discussing why he chose to support the film, Roth explained, “What I love about the movie is that you care about the characters so much. It’s every couple’s worst nightmare. It’s so painful to watch. You sort of know what the illness is but you’re watching this couple go through this heartbreaking thing.”
A lot of our readers compared the first trailer to The Devil’s Due to Rosemary’s Baby. This isn’t something the filmmakers aren’t aware of. In fact, it’s intentional. Roth was the first to broach the topic.“When I ask people what their favorite horror film is, number one most people tell me ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ or ‘The Shining’ or ‘The Exorcist’. What I think [Radio SIlence] did so well was saying right from the get-go, ‘yes, she’s impregnated by this Satanic Baby. Something awful happened. You all saw it.’ And what’s enjoyable is watching her go through a pregnancy knowing this has happened. I thought [they] took it in so many great directions.”
Radio Silence’s most publicly vocal member, Tyler Gillett, agrees. “Certainly ‘Rosemary’s baby’ came up when people saw the trailer and that’s not something we’re afraid of. We’re all huge fans of that film. We knew after reading the script that there was an opportunity to borrow from it in a smart way and really tell a story that had some similarities but felt a little more contemporary and accessible. Also, the style of the film allows the audience to be involved in a really intimate and almost voyeuristic way.” Matt Bettinelli-Olpin adds, “We also wanted to own it from the start. We didn’t pretend that it wasn’t that. Let’s just own it and let it play out from there.”
In 2014, the found footage/POV aesthetic is well established and Roth continues to stump for this specific film’s approach to the material. “When it’s a bad POV movie it’s painful to watch. But when it’s done well you get a ‘Goodbye Uncle Tom’, a ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ a ‘Blair Witch’ or a ‘Paranormal Activity.’ You get so caught up in the scares that it actually transcends the formats. And I think you do that brilliantly. I know a lot of people are familiar with you guys from the awesome stuff you did in ‘V/H/S’, how do you work together as a team?”
Olpin answers, “We’ve been working together for 4 or 5 years now. We would make these shorts after work and on weekends. And then we got hooked up with ‘V/H/S’ and did that, and going from the stuff where it’s just the four of us in a car on the side of the road shooting something to doing this movie, we as much as humanly possible tried to keep the process the same. We can all rely on each other and help each other. Fox has been fantastic about allowing us to continue to take what we do and move it into their realm and support us and not shift what we’ve done.”
Not only did the footage seem very much within the established Radio Silence spirit (albeit with a higher budget), it displayed a pretty intense amount of gore for a studio found footage project. Normally these types of films are rated “R” but feel “PG-13.” Not The Devil’s Due. Blood flows freely. People are dispatched in brutal, occasionally acrobatic, ways and no punches are being pulled.
Even in the less gory moments, there’s a visceral quality to the footage I saw that was impressive and will have most horror fans clamoring for more. One scene, involving the drawing of amniotic fluid, was so intense it literally had me wincing and gripping my arm rest (and I’m fairly desensitized at this point). In addition, the leads played by Zach Gilford and Allison Miller seem to really draw you in and get you invested in this couple that all of these awful things are happening to. If it seems like I’m holding back on a beat-by-beat description of the footage – it’s because I am. There’s a lot of stuff that I can’t wait to experience in the context of the entire film, and I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you. I have a feeling that The Devil’s Due might be worth the wait.