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 the Devil” will not prove to be the most suspenseful film ever made, but it is pretty effective for what it wants to be.
Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) is a young college student who wants to get an apartment of her own. She lucked out in finding a place owned by a kindly landlady who is willing to waive all deposits so long as Samatha can come up with the first month’s rent the following week. Things look rather down for Samantha, as she drowns her concerns in pizza and chit-chat with her talkative friend Megan (Greta Gerwig). Her desperation leaves her to make a call as a babysitter for a Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan) who desperately needs assistance; only instead of a child the job is for the care of an elderly mother and Ulman is prepared to pay a generous amount for a few hours. Reluctant but her need for cash is more a priority, Samantha agrees to the deal. When Mr. and Mrs. Ulman (Mary Woronov) leaves to watch the lunar eclipse, the young house sitter soon finds out that there is something sinister afoot and her life is in deadly danger.
“House of the Devil” is a low-budget horror film with the sensibilities of 80’s horror. The film looked a little grainy as was intended by being shot on 16mm film and is very thoughtful of the era that it pays homage to. The hairdos, clothes, music, art direction and set designs looked very 80’s which aids in convincing the viewer that the film does occur in the 1980’s. Using the plague of devil worship as the film’s foundation, the film opens with text warning of the fact that Satanism was a major event during this period; even going as far as suggesting of a government cover-up to quell the potential panic. The film sells itself as a based on real events and do take note that not as a true story. It is a good gimmick to get the film going but it just doesn’t seem viable the longer the movie went on as the film does have a major B-grade feel to it; this is not negative comment but rather a simple statement of its charm and sensibilities.
The film is suggestive, but barely infuriated as the direction gets Samantha going in exploring the huge, eerie house. West isn’t trying to stir up the senses in a very nippy manner, the film takes its time with its screenplay as we see our main protagonist go through some feelings of weirdness as she finds out certain secrets within the home. There are also a mild snippet of violence to keep things interesting and to draw to viewer in. Ti West doesn’t hide the fact that something is definitely amiss, he scrounges up some suspense driven by creepy sensations as Samantha becomes more uncomfortable with her situation in the eerie home. There are some graphic images of blood and some gore dispersed throughout, not as a cheap scare but more as a stimulant to keep the film interesting. Those who are expecting a thrill-a-minute horror movie may be a little disappointed, as the audience needs to settle in and explore the film’s spooky elements.
Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov are no strangers to horror films; they have that very creepy feel to their characters as Megan seemed to have detected right away. The film does have a good final act sequence as we become privy to a demonic physicality that can bring some chills down your spine. Its final scenes do generate a lot of tension as we see the film go into overdrive; West goes on to display some bursts of violence, ghoulish imagery and bloody sprays. The film doesn’t exactly give the answers to how things become the way they are, but asks its viewer to find the answers as it does make the consumption of pizza and demonic blood very problematic. It isn’t exactly hard, as it has become common knowledge in the horror genre as to how spells and demonic blood can affect someone.
“The House of the Devil” doesn’t assume too much and it relies more on the power of suggestive restraint rather than resorting to an abundance of gore and blood. I was impressed in the manner with which West captured the mood and atmosphere that the film could’ve been ripped off the vault of horror sets. The film’s main weakness is the problems of it moving to the next gear, as it dawdles a little too much. The film also starts off very clichéd and in all honesty the way it gets its footing isn’t very inventive. Be that as it may, West is succeeds in taking his viewer to an alarming, albeit less aggressive mood for horror. The film relies more on atmosphere than depth in characterization. “House of the Devil” is still a fun watch.
**** out of **** 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 … more
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.[