2Spooky4U: The Devil's Due And YouTube

Devil's Due follows a traditional three-act structure that relies on presentation over plot. After all, most people have seen the trailer and have a good idea how it ends. Starting with an ominous gospel passage,  Zach (Zach Gilford) is handcuffed to a table and  covered in blood. An off-camera voice asks what happened and without a second thought we go way back to a first-person POV complete with heavy breathing and home stalking. The camera makes its way up the side of the house, going through a room in the middle of construction and into the bedroom of an unsuspecting woman. As he nears her, he...barks. 

It's a cop-out moment but one that plays upon the terror and dread throughout Devil's Due that's instilled in modern audiences from too many hours at their computer watching--sound off--two minute clips of epic fail on whatever video site they queue up on their browser. "Spooky YouTube" became popular as forum boogeymen like Slender Man and The Rake were so niche that the only way to scratch the itch was breaking out your own Handicam and getting to work.  

Only in found footage do audiences and critics ask "how are we watching this?" It's a given but one that is an unnecessary MacGuffin when it relies entirely on the whim of the creative talent (Cloverfield relied on us believing you're watching confiscated government footage from a super secret office in the Pentagon's stadium seating wing). With YouTube, this question is moot. In the case of Marble Hornets and EverymanHYBRID, we know exactly who is uploading and don't question the narrator.  /V/H/S/ and /V/H/S/-2 run with their concept that something hordes these awful events and keeps them, relatively edited, to be released and seen and cause other awful things to happen.  

The YouTube influence of Due isn't anything new to those that know it or Radio Silence, who  used similar effects with hands emerging from walls in their /V/H/S/ short that originated from the 2009 video "REAL DEMONS CAUGHT ON TAPE."


"Real Demons Caught on Tape"

Still grab grom "10/31/98" via Netflix Instant/Magnet Releasing

Sundance 2012 buzzed about the final short in /V/H/S,  "10/31/98;" what starts out as a party night between four friends gets weird quickly when they arrive at a haunted house gone wrong Credited only as Radio Silence, no one knew anything about the four guys involved.

Before they went the full horror route, Radio Silence was  Chad, Matt & Rob on YouTube. They've since transformed into the horror collective (warning: more gifs than you'd want) without explicitly referencing their background. Their videos ebb and flow at the whim of whoever happens to be clicking through at the time. The change of name came with the addition of Tyler Gillett (co-director) and Justin Martinez (an Executive Producer and Due's Director of Photography) to Matt Bettinelli-Olpin (co-director) and Chad Villella.

The trail that Devil's Due takes is more in line with a people's history of the "found footage" genre. What starts as a generic camera turns to ask the questions we inevitably ask afterwards: why didn't Zach check his footage (he does and immediately afterwards someone steals it--twice), who actually found this footage (heavily implied that the cult does this) and why do we need jump scares (because unhinged screaming pregnant women are frightening). The difference with most older YouTube videos comes with the effects, spectacularly shown when Zach breaks back into his house and his wife is giving birth. The entire house becomes a conduit for the hellspawn as tables leap, walls crack and Radio Silence pays off the 89-minute wait with a reminder of what they can do with more than a few weeks. Even the abrupt shift to a completely random camera plays back on a throwaway motif but more for a single take of a kid being lifted into the air by unseen forces and slammed on top of a car without explicit gore. 

True to their nature, the collective starts out traditional before really experimenting with the question of "who" is finding the footage and how unconventional can lead to subtle shifts when Samanatha, aka Satan's Baby Momma, goes grocery shopping. There's no jump scare and no grain scratch needed. Even later at the throwaway motif everything is shown in daytime, sans interference to prove everything doesn't have to be night vision or shaking like Fred Exley before a Sunday game.

Devil's Due is a neat guided tour through the history of "found footage," but proves it is time to go past a handheld POV--something that Vincenzo Natali's Darknet might tackle. Like in Chronicle, that it isn't a limitation when you choose to treat your audience as if they were at home clicking around on random suggested videos if you happen to like watching a couple be tortured by the antichrist(s) that are made by TMI newlyweds on foreign honeymoon.