A film about a woman impregnated with…something powerful and evil, and dealing with horrific consequences is the “Devil’s Due.”
In “Devil’s Due,” a young couple, Zach McCall (Zach Gilford) and Samantha (Allison Miller) is about to tie the knot. A bright future lies ahead for them – and after an emotional wedding ceremony, they take off for a honeymoon in the sun-kissed Dominican Republic. Their trip takes a bizarre turn after an uncomfortable session with a psychic, who ominously warns the couple that “he has been waiting.” More than a little taken aback by the encounter, Zach and Sam find themselves lost on some dark and empty streets when they finally find a cab driver, who insists on driving them to a subterranean bar for an “autentico” Dominican Republic experience. Then, things get really unsettling.
Sam and Zach soak up the unusual surroundings – as well as copious quantities of alcohol. Along the way, fleeting glimpses of disturbing images accompany them from the revelry: a heap of bones, a grinning skull, a hideous flash of a limp and bloody female body, muffled voices…and a low, insistent chanting. Flash forward to the next morning. The newlyweds remember little of the previous night’s events. Shortly after their return home, Sam learns she is pregnant. Despite the surprising news, the couple makes plans for an addition to their new family.
Soon, however, disturbing clues emerge that their situation is anything but normal: an ultrasound exam and amniocentesis take a troubling turn; on a grocery shopping expedition, Sam, a vegetarian, crams raw, bloody meat into her mouth; in a shopping mall parking lot, she cracks the rear window of a car with a strength and ferocity that doesn’t seem possible for a woman several months pregnant; and her belly seems to stretch and contort, as if the baby is pushing from the inside with extreme force.
Along with the scares, the filmmakers focus on the two lead characters. “The style of the movie allows you to be involved in the relationship between Zach and Sam in a really intimate and almost voyeuristic way,” says director Bettinelli-Olpin. “And we wanted to own the pregnancy from the start; we didn’t want to hide it and make you wait. So, the scene where Sam is impregnated is about 15 minutes into the movie.” Casting the two leads was a key element in the filmmakers’ goal to bring audiences into Sam and Zach’s world and their increasingly dire circumstances. Zach Gilford’s “everyman” likability – so evident in his signature role as high school football quarterback Matt Saracen in the acclaimed TV series Friday Night Lights – is on full display in “Devil’s Due.” And, says Gillett, “Allison Miller was one of the first people we auditioned, and she blew us away. We just fell in love with her, and with Zach; it never feels like they’re acting.”
Filmed on location in the Dominican Republic, at Carnivale and various other sites, including a nightclub in a ruined catacomb, where Zach and Sam spend the fateful final night of their honeymoon, the production then moved to New Orleans, where most of principal photography took place.
Directing quartet Radio Silence embraced the typical scheduling constrains that befall some genre fare shot with “guerilla-style” filmmaking. “We felt like we had an abundance of time and money, just based on the films we’ve made in the past,” says Gillett. “The biggest challenge was getting people on board for how we wanted to make the movie. “So it was more about giving everyone the sense that we’re a part of this together, so let’s jump in and have fun with it.”
Still, no amount of experimentation could address some of the unexpected challenges during production, including a tornado that blew through the church set, which not only had the production scrambling to reschedule the day’s shoot, but had the cast and crew hiding in the building’s stairwells to avoid the fearsome winds.
Later, there was a fire – on the same set. “Just the fact that it was happening in a church, and we’re making a movie about the Anti-Christ, was just kind of creepy,” says Bettinelli-Olpin. “To this day, it makes me smile every time I think about it.”
“Devil’s Due” opens March 19 in theaters from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.