“During the 1980s over 70% of American adults believed in the existence of abusive Satanic Cults. Another 30% rationalised the lack of evidence due to government cover ups. The following is based on true unexplained events…”
So, The House of the Devil is about a student called Samantha who is desperate for cash (to escape her annoying roommate who I probably would have been friends with) and takes a mysterious and totally ill-advised babysitting job. That’s pretty much the premise and everything that happens afterwards is dastardly and weird and scary. I mean….The House of the Devil? I don’t think she’ll be leaving with homemade cookies and a fruit basket. Oh yeah, and it’s lunar eclipse time as well – which seems to be driving everyone a little crazy.
It’s directed by horror regular Ti West and stars Jocelin Donahue and Tom Noonan (and Dee Wallace!). I just looked up Tom Noonan and discovered they’ve made a 12 Monkeys television show? WTF? Anyway. Donahue plays Samantha who seems like a studious and sensible young lady. Noonan plays Mr. Ulman – the guy looking for a babysitter and he comes across as a bit of weirdo. But everyone needs money, right?
So the best bits first. The film is so fucking retro! I didn’t know much about it to be honest and when it first started I was under the impression it was set now but with a nice little vintage nod to the old movies. Then these terrific title credits popped up and I began to doubt this theory.
The yellow writing. The clothes. The SONY WALKMAN. The music that you the reader can’t currently hear. And then we’re introduced to Samantha’s best friend Megan and her hairstyle confirmed to me that The House of the Devil is definitely not set in modern times.
You don’t get hair flicks like that anymore. I liked Megan – she was a bit gross and a bit crude but she made me laugh. And she didn’t think the babysitting thing was a good idea – which it wasn’t.
But it’s not just appearances and clunky gadgets that make this film a throwback to the 70s/80s, the way its filmed and the way in which the plot unfolds has a massive influence too. And it probably won’t be for everyone.
The House of the Devil will be loved by some and hated by others. The people who love it will describe it with words such as ‘distinctive’ or ‘atmospheric’ and find it genuinely suspenseful. The people who hate it will say ‘nothing happens’ or ‘boooooring!’ – which is fine, everyone gets excited by different things. And whilst I admit I was a little surprised at how long the suspense does go on for, there was never a dull moment! It was a fun, interesting movie with genuine uncertainty and fear. I enjoyed all aspects to it – getting to know Samantha, the intentional humour, the vintage vibes, the eerie build up.
And don’t let bored viewers bring you down, this IS an eerie film. Whilst Samantha is babysitting we know that something bad will inevitably happen. We know it’s highly possible that someone (or something) very fucking scary is in the room upstairs. And we know that Samantha is going to break something if she keeps dancing round the house like that.
The House of the Devil is a film that encourages the viewer to look for clues. It wants us right there with Samantha feeling, well – similar to the way she feels I guess. As the evening progresses, Samantha knows something isn’t right (so obviously stuff does happen you bored bastards!). But as we’d all try to do in that situation, she ‘gets a grip’ and rationalises her fear. Anyway, whilst the build-up might be slow-ish, it’s important to remember it does grow beautifully into a shocking (and bloody scary!) finale.
I enjoyed The House of the Devil a lot. I like old horrors anyway and the fact this was made in 2009 is a testament to Ti West, he really did a great job of making it look like a genuine throwback from 1981. Of course it has its moments but I can’t find much to grumble about. Something about the ending really surprised me. Not in a bad way, it just…..surprised me. The tone of the film changed and suddenly I felt I was on a different rollercoaster – I kind of went from the Aerosmith ride straight to Space Mountain. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. And in a sea of terrible horror movies (especially on Netflix, where I watched this) The House of the Devil is a breath of fresh air.
So if you like the 80s and hair flicks and rank looking pizza – watch it. If you like Tom Noonan, long telephone cords and watching skinny girls dance around in tight jeans – watch it.
And if you love horror films – for goodness sake watch it.