Thursday, January 23, 2014

Signs Of Satan: Devil's Due & the Power of the Anti-Chirst

The trailer doesn't do the film justice.
It's an interesting situation: Christians believe in the "invisible world," where there are demons and angels, God and Satan, but it's predominantly fans of the horror genre who attend films such as Devil's Due, and get angry with any type of "moralizing" the film might embark upon, and even more angry when someone tries to point it out, believing--essentially--that you can have the devil and be friends with him, too. That's not what this film is about. Quite specifically, the film exists within a growing segment of Hollywood films exploring the dangerous consequences of sex: Nymphomaniac, Shame, Thanks For Sharing, and I believe solid arguments can be made for films such as The Cold Light Of Day and Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters sharing this agenda, since the lead females in both films are the lead male's sister--rather than a potential sex object--conveying a sense of protecting women rather than using women. Since Devil's Due takes up the theme of "protecting women," let's start with that angle.
Tagline: Fear is born. Remind you of anything you have heard lately, like maybe from Captain America: the Winter Soldier? "This isn't freedom, this is fear," Captain America says, looking at planes in a hanger. The plot line for Devil's Due goes: Zach and Samantha have just gotten married (a Catholic ceremony) and vacation in the Dominican Republic; while there, they visit a palm reader who tells Sam that "they have been waiting for her," and Sam and Zach freak out, leaving, but getting lost; a cab driver shows up and tells them he will take them to a fun party for a drink; they resist at first, but decide to go. He takes them to this place and they have quite a few drinks, then the camera Zach carries with him is put away into Sam's purse, which is left partially open and from that perspective, we see that at least Sam has passed out and is placed in a circle just like the circle seen throughout the film. It appears, then, that she becomes "mystically impregnated" by some demonic force. The couple don't remember anything about the night until later, as increasingly odd things have happened, Zach goes back through the camera files and sees the footage taken from inside Sam's purse and starts to realize what has happened. People from the Dominican Republic had moved into an abandoned house not far from Sam's and Zach's so they could keep watch on them, and when Sam's time to have the baby finally arrives, they show up, Sam having cut open her stomach and is bleeding to death, and they take the baby. So the question is: since the film continually makes reference to the "anti-Christ," who is the anti-Christ? The film tells us.
When the film first opens, we see events through the eyes of an unknown camera person, spying on Sam through the front window of the house, then climbing up to the second story to film her while she's getting out of the shower. The camera person goes into the bathroom where Sam wears only a towel and we hear a dog growl/bark and then it's revealed that it's her fiancée, Zach, that Sam is marrying the next day; they have a brief disagreement over whether or not Zach should see her before the wedding, but we know this is all ready irrelevant and this moment defines why what happens to Sam happens to her and Zach can't do anything to protect her.
A point that could be made--although not well made--is that this film presents a case for abortion: if the stingy Catholic Church permitted abortion, since Sam confesses she doesn't want the baby, she could get an abortion and the world would be saved from the anti-Christ. There are several problems with this "argument." First, had Sam and Zach been living out their Catholic faith as properly taught, they would not be in this position. Secondly, had Sam been practicing natural family planning instead of relying on the pill (NFP is 100% effective, whereas the pill is only 99% effective) she would have known her own body's chemistry better and would have known that something was terribly wrong--instead of depending on a doctor--and she could have gone to Father Thomas/the Church for an exorcism (now THAT would be an interesting film). Last, but not least, is not only the standard argument against abortion, but also against the anti-Christ: God is in control, and to demonstrate that, He permits such things to happen to achieve His will. It's through the activities that liberals participate in--such as drunkenness, taking the pill, promiscuous sex and not going to Church--that many anti-Christs are let loose in the world, not through devout Christians practicing their faith and living out the "call" of Christ (the name of Sam and Zach is McCall, so they have a "call" to be Catholic, but they don't answer it). God will permit the anti-Christ to fulfill all prophecies about himself because God has all ready defeated him.
Zach and Sam have all ready been having sex together. If they had not, I doubt Sam would have been so calm with Zach standing with a camera, filming her while she wore nothing but a towel, and the day after their marriage, they would have spent out sightseeing rather than getting to know each other in the Biblical sense (not to mention, Sam doesn't wear a veil over her face when they get married, a traditional symbol of the groom "breaking the hymen" in his lifting of the veil after they have been wed; the house where most of the film takes place, is where they were probably living together before the wedding). There is also the most interesting detail of the dog barking at Zach because the dog tends to bark at evil things throughout the film.
So, all put together, what does it mean?
Sam is not pregnant in this shot, it's just the way the dress hangs. In the background, above Zach's head, is Father Thomas who has an interesting role in the film later in this same church. Please note that Sam doesn't wear a veil. It's noted later in the film, as Zach talks to Dr. Dylan, who ends up being one of the disciples of the devil, that Sam doesn't have a family: her parents died in a car crash and Sam was cut out of her mother's womb.
Even though Zach records in a personal confession to the camera that he wants to love and protect Sam, he hasn't protected her from himself, from his own lust, and in failing to do this, he isn't capable of protecting her because he has used her for himself. IF Zach and Sam had waited until their wedding night, they would not have been out sight-seeing that night they were "kidnapped," they would have been back in the hotel making love; if they had lived up to their Catholic vows, they would not have gone to a fortune-teller/psychic, knowing that is a violation of the 1st Commandment, and if Zach had valued Sam, he wouldn't have let her get drunk, which is another sin against the virtue of temperance (because it suspends your ability to think, drunkenness is seen as a sin of self-abuse). Because of Zach's own personal sins, he can't know how to protect Sam against her sins--again, protecting her is what the film itself says, not me--and Zach certainly hasn't protected her from his own lust and the sign of Satan in the film verifies this for us.
This is the nursery; it had been Sam's office, where she did her college studies, but she "sacrificed" it for the baby because she did most of her studying on the couch anyway. Throughout the course of the film, beginning with on the wall where the cab driver takes Sam and Zach to the party in the Dominican Republic, we see the symbol etched on the floor in this picture. It's identified by Father Thomas as a sign used by enemies of the early church to try and undermine it, to bring it down, and it would be placed at entries and exits, along with piles of ash. Inside this symbol is where the "baby" will be born. In the scene described below, of the First Communion, it's important that Sam is 8 months pregnant because 8 is the number specifically allocated for Christ in Christian numerology (the way 3 denotes the Trinity, 6 the days of creation, 7 the virtues and deadly sins, etc.). Sam being 8 months pregnant with "the devil's child" particularly emphasizes how she is NOT pregnant with a child of Christ, i.e., giving birth to the Works of God, rather, giving birth to the works of the devil.
In one part of the film, Sam is eight months pregnant and she and Zach go to Zach's niece's First Communion, at the same church were they were married, and Sam sees Father Thomas and gives him a one-arm hug and he immediately starts coughing. As far as we the audience know, this is the first time Zach and Sam have been to church since their wedding (and probably not to Confession, either). As the ceremony begins, and Father Thomas tells the congregation of the importance of the First Communion, the Sacrament of receiving Jesus Christ, he becomes paralyzed, starts coughing up blood and then falls with a violent nose bleed, the ceremony ending. Father Thomas is then taken to the hospital and Zach visits him, asking him about the symbols, but--quite frankly--it's a symbol Zach should all ready know, because it's basically a portrait of him.

At the "party" where the cab driver takes Sam and Zach in the Dominican Republic, they are partying one second and then Sam tells Zach to put the camera in her bag; the bag gapes open at different intervals so we see part of the ceremony/impregnation of Sam through the camera in the bag, which, very interestingly enough, resembles the impregnation in and of itself (the camera being a phallic symbol and the purse--very often, in a number of contexts--symbolizes a woman's vagina because a purse is where a woman keeps many of her personal items, a woman's bag is off-limits to men, as is her sexual organs supposed to be), we could say this is a kind of sexual mysticism we also see in The Legend Of Hercules which just came out a couple of weeks ago. In that film, Queen Alcmene prays to Hera for a relief from her evil husband's curse upon the land, so Hera allows Zeus to impregnate Alcmene and beget Hercules (which means "Gift Of Hera"). The scene with Alcmene and Zeus is similar to the scene with Sam and,... whatever it is that "comes to her." Why would two films, released so closely together, and of such different time periods, basically be about the same thing, but on opposite ends of the discussion? The Legend Of Hercules is about a divinely appointed savior coming to rescue humanity, while Devil's Due is about a demonically appointed destroyer coming to annihilate humanity. The two films, we might deduce, are trying to remind us of the influence the "unseen" world has upon the world we see around us; why is that important? Well, to casually insert this as a possibility, most/all socialists are atheists, who do not believe in anything you can't shake a stick at, only the material world that can be seen with the eyes of the body. For such supernatural events to be important plot points of these two films (granted, films that haven't done well) is the case in point that these films DO believe in the unseen world, and that it also has influences upon our world.
Essentially, the "Satanic symbol" is a simplistic depiction of the sexual act: the two straight lines indicate the penis, and the round, feminine circle is the womb/uterus/vagina. This actually makes perfect sense as a "sign" that would have undermined the authority of the early church, because the teachings on both abstinence for those who were not wed, and for priestly celibacy, would not have been teachings popular with the potential converts, just as chastity and celibacy are not popular today, which leads us to the greatest oxymoron I have ever heard, spoken by Sam herself: "I took the pill religiously."
One review I read of the film said it was racist because all the disciples of Satan were black or Hispanic; the man wearing the doctor's suit in the image above "replaced" the black female doctor Sam and Zach originally had, and ends up being one of the disciples who cuts open Sam's stomach and brings out the baby and takes it away, so the racist charges against the film, as usual, really don't stand.
Most Feminists would easily site "The Pill" as the greatest invention that has ever helped women because it has allowed women to be sexually active without the fear of getting pregnant. In a study done by the University Of New Mexico, women who were on the pill had a decrease in their ability to smell, which helps women to successfully choose a mate with good genes, as opposed to women not on the pill, who had a better sense of smell for choosing a good mate; women on the pill had a decrease in sex drive while also experiencing a decrease in their inhibition about having sex; women not on the pill, however, had an increase in sex drive but also an increase in their inhibition; in other words, the pill turns women into whores, because they are not driven to find a steady mate with whom to raise children, rather, they just "exist" and engage in sex without thinking about it. This, then, describes what has happened to Sam, and how the film makers wanted to point out to us what has happened to Sam has happened because she "took the pill religiously." We are now in a position to understand who the anti-Christs are in the film: Sam and Zach.
Sam has just had her baby shower and received an anonymous gift, which is a silver,... thing. She will use it to slash open her stomach so the baby can be removed from it; why? She's "sacrificing herself" in an unholy way, for the birth of the demonic child that will continue her own life of sin, petty as some people might consider those sins. Why is the object silver? We have discussed this before regarding why silver bullets (or anything silver) is needed to kill a werewolf (a symbol of the sexually promiscuous male): in Hebrew, the word "silver" sounds like the word for "word," and Jesus is the "Word made Flesh," so the silver instrument reminds us how Sam has not been listening to the Word, or partaking Communion, and all the events of the film are because of what she has done and failed to do, that by NOT choosing Jesus Christ, she has chosen the anti-Christ.
Mother Theresa, a woman all know to be a good and faithful Catholic woman, would never have been in a position of giving birth to the anti-Chirst because she kept the teachings of the Church faithfully; Sam and Zach can give birth to the anti-Christ because they have NOT kept the teachings of the Church. They might think they are Catholic, but so do a lot of people, but all it takes to be an anti-Christ is not going to Church, not receiving Communion, not going to Confession, not waiting until your wedding night. That is why, in 1 John 2:18, it says there are "many" anti-Christs, because so many fail to live up to the Teachings of Christ. This re-contextualizes the very beginning and very end of the film.
Everything Zach does in the film appears to be for Sam and the baby--which he is thrilled about--and so Zach appears to be a very good and loving father and husband; but in the opening and closing scenes, when Zach is in the detectives' office being interrogated, he turns his wedding band around on his finger, staring at it, claiming he didn't do it, but he did do it. Why is this important? It's a passive examination of what masculinity is. Feminism is a very strong, political presence in our culture, and in personal relationships, but how often is there really an examination of what it means to be masculine? Feminists would argue that all of Western Civilization is an exercise in understanding masculinity, but for men in a day-to-day routine, does that cut it? No, because films might offer role models of what masculine actions are, but not why those actions are particularly masculine and how that nurtures masculinity, which in turn nurtures femininity, and correct femininity nurtures correct masculinity. For example: culture says that promiscuity in men is acceptable, but as Devil's Due takes great pains to demonstrate, is that actually going to benefit Zach? Is that going to give Zach the things he wants in life? No.
At the start of the film, Zach sits in what appears to be a police interrogation office and two detectives question him, saying, "Why don't you tell us what really happened?" Why would they say this? Because Zach hasn't said, I killed by wife and sister by having sex with Sam before we were married, so we gave birth to an anti-Christ who we will raise to be just like us and who is going to bring down the Church and civilization with it, just like what we are doing. The cops don't believe Zach's story about the cult and circle symbols, but we do; why?
Because of distortion and noise.
Zach's sister's body lies in the corner, and Sam smears her bloody intestines on the floor, which is what we saw her doing earlier in the film when Sam had butchered a small family of deer. Early in Sam's pregnancy, she had seen the deer and called them "beautiful," then later she is found by some other people, bent over the deer, having cut them open and killed them, just like her sister-in-law. A woman who is sexually-active outside of marriage destroys the family, not only because she has turned her body away from the role of child-bearing and rearing, but because she would rather work outside the home then be a part of the home, just like Sam yells at Zach when revealing that she's horrified of becoming like Zach's sister and she doesn't want to take any time off from classes to spend with the baby. This is a perfect example of the film following the old rule, "Show, don't tell," because instead of just telling us that promiscuous women on the pill destroy the family, they are showing us that promiscuous women on the pill "gut" and murder the family because they are not fulfilling their natural role, they have taken on an unnatural role.
At certain times, usually when something "evil" is nearby, there is noticeable distortion and noise in the filming (which is all "found footage" and some surveillance cameras). When there is distortion in the filming, the audience "knows" through inter-acting with the plot (that is, by inserting our own experience or world views into the "missing" plot of why there is a pattern of noise and distortion at certain points) that something evil is interfering with the recording. Is this just a sign of the bad quality of the film? No, this is the application of a specific aesthetic, particularly through chaos theory. Noise and distortion--in various forms--is an aesthetic because even though we think the noise interferes with the information we are supposed to be taking in, the noise/distortion offers us it's own unique form of information; in other words, when the images we were just watching on the screen, suddenly go "snowy" or fill with lines, it's tempting to think that the scene is being ruined, but the timed-intervals when the interruptions leads the audience to deduce that some force in the scene causes the interruption, so that's how the noise/distortions become its own sense of information: there is a character/force in the scene we would not have been aware of had the distortion not revealed their presence. But there is another, more powerful way in which noise and distortion is used: Zach's entire story.
The ultra-sound taken of Sam's baby. This scene, when they get the picture--that ends up disappearing--is an example of noise, not only during the ultra-sound, but on Zach's camera.
It's very possible, given the reading detailed above about Zach and Sam being the anti-Christ, that the entire story we have watched is nothing but noise and distraction, and the police know that. The party in the Dominican Republic could be distortion; the strange people watching them, also distortion; Sam's bizarre behavior, all of this might be distortion and noise to cover up the real message that Sam and Zach were together before their wedding night, Sam was taking the pill religiously, rather than receiving Communion religiously, and Zach getting her pregnant (not some cult) gave birth to a child that was born outside of the Church and who helps to bring down civilization is all simply because they have been living like pagans, rather than the Children of God. In other words, the noise and distraction acts to "encode" and "embed" the real message that we know every movie all ready contains and just has to be skillfully extracted.
One of the people who watches their house; again, another white person, not a black or Hispanic person like some reviews have charged. The "distortion" in not being able to clearly make out their features verifies the different levels of that particular aesthetic being employed throughout the film (which we also witnessed in The Dark Knight Rises with Bane's speech patterns). What about the very last scene with the "new couple" in Paris, when the same cab driver pulls up and wants to take them "to a party" and they go with him? Technically, this offers us an example of redundancy, so we see a pattern being established and that communicates to us it's on-going. In a different view, it could communicate that this happens in First World countries (France) just as readily as Third World countries (the Dominican Republic). I could offer another reading, but I think I will skip it, at least for now.
To conclude, there is much more we could examine in the film, so this is only the scratching of the surface. Like many horror films, it's showing us the horror "within ourselves" and the horror our own abuse of free will brings about. This might be a little film that gets no attention, but I hope it's part of a growing trend to teach people about the consequences of their actions and the reality of sexual consequences.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner