The 80's was - whether you liked the decade or not - the golden age of modernized horror. It was then that we got "classics" such as "Friday the 13th" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (although that one can be called a classic without the hint of sarcasm in the parenthesis). It was a time that influenced many modern horror filmmakers; among the notable examples of those influenced being Eli Roth and the independent filmmaker Ti West. I imagine there are two sides of the 80's when it comes to horror cinema. Roth admires and lives by the side that presents the audience with a combination of the ol' blood-and-boobs. West, however, appears to see the other side that is seldom explored. There are many horror movies from the 80's that I like and even love; whilst there might be even more that I hate. While I can somewhat appreciate that sleazy feeling that Roth is trying to re-invent (and has been ever since he started his career as a director), I definitely prefer the approach that West takes with most of his films over anything else.
Speaking of Ti West, you may be asking, who is this guy? He directed "The Roost" and "Trigger Man"; to seldom-seen, seldom-talked-about, presumably underrated horror films. Then, he went on to direct "The House of the Devil"; a spooky, atmospheric throwback to the personally preferred entries of an era that had its ups-and-downs. What I like about this film is that it abandons all clichés, tackles familiar subjects in familiar territories, but ultimately comes out a success. I may love it more than most will. I know plenty of people who find it slow, tedious, messy, and overall just boring. I can understand why they would feel this way; they may have never been introduced to Hitchcock. They were born and introduced to underground sleaze. This is unfortunate, because real horror and real thrills are created by masters; skillful filmmakers who make a name for themselves out of their work. I am not quite sure if West will become the next Hitchcock, but damn, this is a mighty fine film. There are so many reasons why, and I'm not sure if I'll get to all of them in one review, but I'll get to what I can. This is a hell of a watch.
The film's set-up is so simple that it's, well, ingenious; or at least, in my image, it can be seen this way. The decade of choice is, as said, the 1980's; and the leading lady of the film is Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue). She's a college student hoping to move from her mediocre, sex-addicted roommate-infested dorm to a nice, affordable, competent apartment. She connects well enough with landlady (Dee Wallace, in an appearance you won't want to miss); and it looks like things are going to work out. Cut to Samantha walking away from the scene, happy as can be. She puts some earphones on. Music begins to play. Cue the radical retro opening credits.
After thinking about just how awesome that opening was, I'm back. So let's get back on top of things. Samantha is facing a bit of a crisis; the landlady kindly gives her time to come up with the money to pay for her new apartment, but she needs a fine a way to MAKE it in the first place. Samantha scouts the college campus for job offers or advertisements, and finds one in the form of an ad for a very-much-wanted babysitter. She calls up the one who put the paper on the bulliton; after some complications, he reveals his name to be Mr. Ulman. He is played by Tom Noonan, although we won't know that until we meet him, which shall be soon enough. Samantha decides to ask her slightly unsupportive and apathetic stoner friend (Greta Gertwig) for advice, and gains nothing in the way of new wisdom or knowledge. However, this same friend does accompany Samantha to the house of the Ulmans once she finally makes her final decision; and that is to take the job. However, upon arriving, Mr. Ulman shares a word with the heroine; she is not "babysitting". She will be "mother-sitting". Yes, you heard right; apparently Mrs. Ulman's mother is locked upstairs, rarely making much of a sound, but needing attention from time-to-time nonetheless. After the man of the house offers Samantha a large sum of money, she agrees to take the job for what it is. Her friend, however, is distressed and leaves. Samantha stays, and as the night progresses, she gets increasingly bored and decides to explore the large Ulman house.
But wait...something does not seem right. Samantha's stoner friend is not picking up the phone when she calls (her answering machine is a fraud; you'll know what I mean when you hear it). The wooden floors upstairs appear to creak from time-to-time. There is a lunar eclipse on that very night, but Samantha could care less. In fact, she and her friend have an entire conversation early on in the film about how stupid all this eclipse stuff is. They don't think much of it; or much of anything, for the matter. But this is what makes them work as characters; two normal girls who eventually get mixed up into an unmentionable and uncomfortable horror situation; that, which I will not spoil or say anything about.
I consider myself a horror fan. I watch a lot of horror films; and unlike most fellow all-around film buffs, I don't just watch a lot of them in the month of October. All year round, I am forever exploring. I can't help but recall some very good movie-watching memories whenever I re-watch "The House of the Devil". I've seen it a few times now and its effect never wears off. It's slow-moving, but it's well-worth the wait once the classic "fifteen-minute climax" has begun. It reminds me of favorites such as "Suspiria". Oh, what a great feeling.
In the end, I just really dug the retro feel; West really captured the era in this one. The music choice is quirky; with some very creative original music that only adds to the moody brilliance of West's directorial vision. He focuses on his house, his twist ending, and the overall horror of the situation. This is pure tension. I loved it; one of my favorite films of 2009 and one of the best genre pictures of the past decade. I wish I could say more; but it would appear that I've said enough. I spent a lot of time describing the plot, and I didn't spoil too much for you. You should be grateful. Now you can go into this film and not know what to expect. Is it a haunted house movie? Are their creepy-crawlies? Are their ghosts, demons, or ghouls? You'll just have to find out.
Written, directed and edited by Ti West, “The House of the Devil” is a 2009 horror film that mixes in ‘slasher’ elements, haunted house features and uses the “satanic cult” as its central plot element. It is a throwback horror movie that uses the film techniques, style and the look of the bygone era of the 80’s. West’s creation keeps it straight and simple, to keep it true to the 1980’s genre of horror films. “The House of … more
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.
The House of the Devil is a 2009 horror film written, directed, and edited by Ti West, starring Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, and Mary Woronov. It combines elements of both the slasher film and haunted house subgenres while using the "satanic panic" of the 1980s as a central plot element. The film attempts to recreate the style of horror films from the 1970s and 1980s, using similar filming techniques and film technology as those which were used during the era. Unlike other films made in the 1990s and 2000s that attempted to revive the horror genre (for instance, the Scream films), the film does not use satire or irony to convey the story, but plays it straight in order to be as true as possible to the style of the decade's horror films.[