I think we can all agree that the strongest piece from the anthology horror film V/H/S was its final installment, "10/31/98." And, at least in my opinion, the team behind it – the fright force four known as "Radio Silence" – was going to be one to watch. The creative collective made up of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez and Chad Villella had produced some cool online shorts prior to V/H/S, but "10/31/98" put them on the radar and, naturally, they were scooped up for a studio project.
That project was Devil's Due, opening in theaters January 17th. It's the second major horror release of 2014 and the second theatrical "found footage" (or faux documentary) to hit the screen from a major studio. And although Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett get directing credit, Devil's Due is, indeed, a group effort for Radio Silence. Can they emulate the same level of thrills here they executed so well in "10/31/98"? Well, Devil's Due asks them to switch gears a tad. While the film is "found footage," it's not a haunted house picture. Instead, it's more in line with Satanic fare like Rosemary's Baby (to draw a comparison that can only be made off of the previews).
Shock Till You Drop was invited to the 20th Century Fox lot to preview a few scenes from the film – some of which are hitting the web at the time of this writing – and what we saw was promising. If you don't know the concept, the script – penned by Lindsay Devlin – concerns a young couple who are expecting their first child after a honeymoon. The pregnancy goes awry, however, when the mother-to-be starts behaving unusually and sinister figures are seen lurking in the shadows…as if they're waiting for something.
The clips we witnessed included Samantha feasting on a deer carcass, demonstrating some otherworldly strength and freaking out a priest to the point where blood suddenly erupts from his nostrils. We were also privy to what appeared to be a sinister ceremony of sorts that Samantha and her new hubby, Zach, experience. Radio Silence pulled out a trick or two from "10/31/98" for one particular sequence I don't want to spoil, but the rest looked solid. Hopefully, as a whole, the film comes together into something unique.
Following the preview, Eli Roth – a big supporter of the film – came out to moderate a Q&A with Radio Silence. Here are some of the highlights…
- The audience will know from the get-go that Samantha has been impregnated by something evil leaving the journey to be about the discovery of what's happening to Samantha and the creeping dread of what will occur once the child is born.
- Radio Silence knew there would be Rosemary's Baby would come up as a common comparison. They didn't mind "borrowing" themes but they wanted to make a film that would definitely feel contemporary not just in style but in its story of a couple expecting their first child and the fears that come with that. They didn't want to "hide" the impregnation and be secretive about the dark ceremony Samantha is involved in.
- The cast was hired based on their natural qualities and bringing a sense of realism, in spite of being recognizable faces. The relationship between Samantha and Zach needed to feel plausible.
- They admit if the film "sucks," it's their fault, as the studio has given them a lot of freedom.
- Contrary to popular belief, "found footage" films are difficult to pull off and there's a lot of choreography that goes into the process.
- The "lamaze class" sequence – which we did not see – is one to get excited about.
- The goal to a succesful POV movie: Find the "sweet spot" between the ultra-choreographed cinematic look and the raw style you see on YouTube. There should not be a break in reality because once there is a break, the audience holds onto that and is taken out of the experience.
- For fledgling filmmakers, Radio Silence's advice is: Make what you like and what you want to see. Decide what you want to say, stick to it and go for it.
- They shot on a Sony EX3 and were allowed to do crazy things during the shoot without major rigs. It also allowed them to give the camera to their actors to shoot some footage themselves.
- 40% of the digial FX were created by one member of Radio Silence, which is impressive considering it was a studio production. Normally, effects are sent off to an FX house.
- Their stance on "found footage": People don't hate "found footage," they hate bad movies and that's their belief. They feel "found footage" has come a long way.
- Music will be used in Devil's Due, but it was about finding the "sweet spot" between giving the experience of it feeling like a movie and making it feel real. The team believes creating a soundtrack for a POV film is one of the most creative things. The film isn't scored, but the music is used for the world they created.
- The team assert their fans and have tried to make a film they wanted to watch, "that's about as honest as an approach as you can get."