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Devil's Due: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet Review

Devil's Due (2014) movie poster Devil's Due

Theatrical Release: January 17, 2014 / Running Time: 89 Minutes / Rating: R

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett / Writers: Lindsay Devlin

Cast: Allison Miller (Samantha McCall), Zach Gilford (Zach McCall), Sam Anderson (Father Thomas), Roger Payano (Cab Driver), Vanessa Ray (Suzie), Bill Martin Williams (Ken), Geraldine Singer (Sally), Julia Denton (Natalie), Colin Walker (Stanley), Madison Wolfe (Brittany), Joshua Shane Brooks (Braedon), Aimee Carrero (Emily), Robert Belushi (Mason), DeMaris Gordon (Psychic), Donna DuPlantier (Dr. J. Ludka), Robert Aberdeen (Dr. Dylan)

Buy Devil's Due from Amazon.com: Blu-ray Combo Pack DVD Instant Video

Horror movies are released to theaters all year long, but their timing tends to reflect their quality. Last year, Warner Bros. took the bold step of assigning a typically potent mid-July opening to The Conjuring, which went on to become one of the year's biggest and best-reviewed hits. October, the month most associated with horror, always has something for moviegoers to consider at Halloweentime, in recent years studios making annual traditions out of the Saw and Paranormal Activity franchises.
Offseason debuts in April and September try to capitalize on lighter competition, often with modest results. Then there are winter horror movies, which in recent years have prospered in what has long been considered Hollywood's dumping ground season. Whether trashed or tolerated by critics, several genre films have managed to do strong business in theaters opening in January or early February, when they're more conventionally commercial than the award season fare still being rolled out. Mama, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Devil Inside, and The Woman in Black each grossed over $100 million worldwide, despite not being all that good.

It made sense, then, for 20th Century Fox to open Devil's Due, a horror film certain to win few admirers, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Weekend. The strategy didn't really work; the film's $15.8 M domestic gross on a $7 M production budget means it has yet to turn a profit, when marketing costs and theater profits are deducted. But at least Fox can take comfort in the fact that no other time of the year would have miraculously earned this found footage flick a larger, more adoring audience.

In the film's interrogation room opening, Zach McCall (Zach Gilford) has some explaining to do. Samantha McCall (Allison Miller) gets an update on her unplanned pregnancy.

The film opens in an interrogation room, with a young man named Zach McCall (Zach Gilford) pleading his innocence. We then jump back nine months to the evening before the wedding of Zach and Samantha (Allison Miller). Zach explains why he'll be documenting everything, having inherited his father's nostalgia gene. The plan, an implausible way to justify the design, sounds okay to Samantha, a foster home product who considers her childhood a blank.

We follow the obnoxious young newlyweds to their honeymoon destination, the Dominican Republic. There, a psychic rattles Samantha by telling her she was "born from death" and exclaims "they've been waiting." Who has been waiting? It's tough to say, but it seems to involve a secret cult and "the Anderson house", the eyesore of the McCall's suburban neighborhood. After living it up in a Santo Domingo cave dance club, Samantha endures a strange experience.

Back home, she discovers she's pregnant, which the doctor attributes to the 1% in which the birth control pill fails. Zach brings the camera along on doctor's appointments and the baby's first Ultrasound. Samantha, meanwhile, starts exhibiting some strange behavior as her hair starts falling out, her back is inexplicably bruised, and she compulsively starts carving up the floor. In a parking lot, a van that nearly backs up into the mother-to-be prompts her to break every one of its windows dramatically with her bare hands.

Zach starts having cameras shoot around the house around the clock for reasons that are never explained. In fact, not much is explained. Incoherency abounds, until an epilogue is supposed to make some sense out of the ambiguous, abruptly-ended carnage dutifully recorded.

Grocery store surveillance footage captures Samantha McCall's sudden craving for raw meat.

I often struggle to make sense of the fact that horror has the most devoted enthusiasts. No other genre holds such little regard for its audience with as much frequency. Release to 2,500 or more theaters is usually a seal of approval indicating that the film is at least polished enough
to justify the advertising costs of such a wide-reaching engagement. But Devil's Due proves that certain horror movies sneak past such standards. All it requires is a title in red, a generic tagline, and conventionally creepy marketing imagery. At the very least, horror buffs will take notice of the movie and give it a look on home video, if not in theaters, where the film doesn't deserve to be and wouldn't be as a product of any other genre.

From first-time screenwriter Lindsay Devlin and two of the directors of V/H/S, Devil's Due is a mess that drains whatever novelty remained for found footage thrillers. The biggest star of this forgettable no-name production is Sam Anderson (young Forrest Gump's doctor and a 35-year TV veteran you may recognize from stints on shows like "Growing Pains", "Perfect Strangers", "ER", "Lost" and "Justified"), who is capable in limited screen time but still hindered by the material.

After opening in seventh place at the box office and fading fast (leaving nearly all of its theaters in three weeks or less), Devil's Due hit home video this week in the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet combo pack reviewed here.

Devils' Due: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.85:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), 5.1 DTS (Russian), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English DVS, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Czech, Hungarian, Polish)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, English DVS), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Spanish, French)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish; BD-only: French, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Estonian, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Turkish, Ukrainian
Not Closed Captioned; Most Extras Subtitled in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Czech, Greek, Hungarian, Polish, and Portuguese; Commentary Subtitled in English and Russian
Release Date: April 29, 2014 / Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Devil's Due opts for aesthetic appeal over dramatic realism. Thus while it is presented like the work of an amateur with a camera, it is clearly lit and photographed like a pro. The 1.85:1 visuals are often shaky but suitably sharp, vivid, and nicely detailed. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix features a lot of bass, which may rattle your glasses on occasion. It will not disappoint those who appreciate aggressive sound design. Fox surprisingly treats the film to an abundance of foreign language dubs and subtitles, as listed above.

Sam Anderson appears as Father Thomas in this deleted scene. The four bros who made Devil's Due talk about their movie in a commentary and this featurette.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's all-HD extras begin with nine deleted scenes, running 16 minutes and 35 seconds.
They include more from the couple's wedding and honeymoon, Christmas Day, an alternate appearance by Father Thomas, and an extended ending with hospital footage. None of them seems able to make the movie any good.

"Radio Silence: A Hell of a Team" (12:18) celebrates the four filmmakers, directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and executive producers Chad Villella and Justin Martinez, who describe their history, share some clips from their past online shorts, and are seen shooting this movie.

"Director's Photo Album" displays pictures from production (which director, it doesn't say). You can view them as a slideshow automatically advanced every 5 seconds (12:30) or page through the over 100 pics manually.

"Ashes to Ash" (0:54) is a short clip of a burning crow requiring more context to accurately describe.

"The Lost Time" (3:30) similarly confuses. It follows Spanish speakers into a dark cave that presumably once housed the dance club.

Amateurish movies are nothing new for Radio Silence, as the short "Mountain Devil Prank Fails Horribly" shows. The terrifying main menu applies glitches to the couple's wedding video.

"Roommate Alien Prank Goes Bad" (2:19) is one of the collective's old short films. In it, attempts to prank alien-fearing Chad Villella take a strange turn. In the same vein, the night vision short "Mountain Devil Prank Fails Horribly" (3:26) has the guys try to frighten Chad with a staged road accident that does not go as intended.

Next, there is an audio commentary from directors Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett and executive producers Villella and Martinez. Theirs is a casual and jokey track, full of screen-specific observations,
technical reflections, profanity, and explanations of plot points that aren't clear from simply viewing the movie. The emphasis on cameras and gore make clear that storytelling isn't a top priority for these filmmakers. Not since "Workaholics", I have endured a commentary this unpleasant.

Finally, the theatrical trailer for Devil's Due (1:21) is fittingly preserved.

Presumably, the DVD included in this combo pack is the same one sold on its own. Though well under dual-layered capacity, it only includes the nine deleted scenes and the Devil's Due trailer.

Both discs open with a promo for Digital HD and trailers for Joy Ride 3, 3 Days to Kill, "American Horror Story: Asylum", and the new RoboCop. Their Sneak Peek sections hold these plus trailers for Carrie and "The Bridge": Season 1.

The ominously-scored menu plays glitchy video clips and some fiery imagery. The Blu-ray supports bookmarks and also lets you resume playback after subjecting you to the studio's fanfare.

A single-sided insert supplying your digital copy code joins the two discs inside the eco-friendly keepcase, which is topped by a glossy slipcover.

Does anybody really know what's happening at the end of "Devil's Due"? Does anybody really care?

CLOSING THOUGHTS

It takes seeing an awful lot of movies to appreciate just how terrible Devil's Due is. Here's a horror film looking to cash in on the found footage craze but not having nearly enough substance to keep you engaged. I am confident that this will remain one of 2014's worst movies through the end of the year.

The Blu-ray combo holds a fine feature presentation and a number of bonus features (many of them obnoxious), but none of it renders the film anything but a frustrating waste of time.

Buy Devil's Due from Amazon.com: Blu-ray Combo Pack / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
New: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones Ride Along Labor Day Jim Gaffigan: Obsessed
January Horror Movies: Cloverfield Mama The Rite Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters The Devil Inside
Rosemary's Baby Hell Baby The Last Exorcism The Apparition Insidious Insidious: Chapter 2 Chronicle
The Conjuring Dark Skies Evil Dead Paranormal Activity 2 Paranormal Activity 3 Paranormal Activity 4
Allison Miller: 17 Again | Zach Gilford: Grey's Anatomy: The Complete Fifth Season

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Reviewed May 2, 2014.



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