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Originally published Friday, January 17, 2014 at 8:04 AM

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‘Devil’s Due’: a found-footage ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ wannabe

A handful of high-end special effects lift the generic demonic possession tale “Devil’s Due,” which serves up a “Rosemary’s Baby” variation of the found-footage formula.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Movie Review 1.5 stars

‘Devil’s Due,’ with Allison Miller, Zach Gilford, Sam Anderson. Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. 89 minutes. Rated R for language and some bloody images. Several theaters.

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The dog knows. The dog always knows in movies about the devil, because there’s the scent of Satan in the air.

Maverick, a Setter, knows that something’s up with Samantha’s mysterious, post-honeymoon in Santo Domingo pregnancy. Her OB-GYN may not have a clue, and her videotape-EVERYTHING husband Zach (Zach Gilford of “Friday Night Lights”) may be slow on the uptake.

But Maverick gets it, and long before the devil’s due date in “Devil’s Due.”

Fifteen years after “The Blair Witch Project” brought “found footage” into the film vocabulary, “Devil’s Due” serves up a “Rosemary’s Baby” variation of the formula. A police interrogation (videotaped) of bloodied, shocked Zach frames the story. And wedding video, home movies, closed circuit supermarket cameras (capturing Samantha devouring raw meat, and the shocked reactions of customers) and Satanist surveillance footage make up most — but not all (the filmmakers break format) — of this rarely hair-raising thriller about the ultimate “problem pregnancy.”

Sam (Allison Miller), an orphan with “no family,” marries Zach and they dash off to the Caribbean for a honeymoon. A night of partying, a too-helpful taxi driver who offers to take them someplace “special” and authentic, and snatches of Zach’s video footage of the ritual that happened to them after they blacked out from the drinks tell us, but not them, what is going on.

A Santo Domingo palm reader tries to warn them. “No family, no past, you were born for death,” she intones. “THEY’VE been WAITING!”

We already know who “they” are because of the Biblical “Antichrist” passage quoted in the opening credits. And the waiting involves, what, nine months or so?

“Something’s wrong,” Sam keeps protesting about this baby. But video-mad Zach takes forever to start looking back over his footage and figuring all this out.

A handful of high-end special effects lift this generic demonic possession tale, and a few killer scenes work — a Lamaze class where Samantha’s fetus gives the other women contractions, a First Communion celebration turned bloody by that thing growing in Samantha’s womb, the aforementioned supermarket scene (funny), Samantha’s supervillain-sized explosions of temper.

The dialogue is dull, the performances perfunctory. And while it is novel to leave out “the explainer” — that slim hope that a priest, an expert on the Occult or whoever, can give the characters answers — common to this genre, omitting that character robs the film of pathos and urgency. There’s no “We have to stop this from happening” because nobody knows what’s happening or that it should be stopped.

Except for the dog. And he’s not talking. He’s just hoping that, unlike so many dogs in so many satanic possession movies, he gets to survive to the final credits.

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