October 30, 2009
United States (English)
Written and Directed by Ti West
"The House of the Devil" is more than just a call back to horror of yesteryear, it is a genuinely chilling sojourn with fun filmmaking flourishes.
If you saw my post last night you will know that "The House of the Devil" was the first entry in my horror movie marathon: "October 2012: 1 Month, 31 Horror Films." It was also my first Ti West film. I plan on watching West's film from last year, "The Innkeepers," later this week. "The House of the Devil" is an ideal flick to kick off the month of horror as it is a recent enough release yet manages to be retro. Besides being set in the 1970s, the film takes on an overall air from the low-budget horror films of that era: Touches include the wonky score by Jeff Grace, an occasionally flash zoom, and the freeze-frame opening credits. Just look at the title image below:
"The House of the Devil" knows its influences and emulates them confidently. It would have been a nice fit with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's "Grindhouse" double-feature, though it is admittedly much less gratuitous and crowd-pleasing. West has actually rubbed shoulders with that crowd before. He wrote and directed the sequel to Eli Roth's "Cabin Fever."
While much of West's form and function are familiar, including the premise of a female college student desperate for cash and excepting a late night babysitting gig out of town, he brings his own stamp to the genre. "The House of the Devil" is a slow-burn terror. When Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) shows up for the job a very tall and strangely soft-spoken man (Tom Noonan) answers the door. Previous to this scene we have only heard his voice over the phone. It is revealed that the babysitting may not have been the right title for the job, yet the film still paces itself superbly For the next half hour you will wonder when the movie is ever going to live up to its title.
When characters and their mysteries are revealed in "The House of the Devil" it is further proof that the unknown is much more terrifying than explanations. The anticipation of possibilities is ultimately better than what we are served. Notwithstanding, shocking moments erupt from those composed waits. Both paces prove scary enough. And you know what? I dug the closing credits (and the scene they stem from) as much as the opening.
CONTENT: strong bloody violence, brief strong language, disturbing images