HOUSE OF THE DEVIL is a loving throwback to a subgenre of slow burn, late 70’s/early 80’s horror films that value suspense and tension building over balls-to-the-wall splatter and gore. It reminded me of films like: ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE OMEN and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.
Set in the early 80’s, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL,is about a sophomore college student named Sam (Jocelin Donahue) who needs $300 for a down payment on a place of her own so she can finally have a bit of freedom. Her roommate is too busy having lots of sex and Sam’s best friend Megan (Greta Gerling) is the rebel Sam wishes she could be. Sam needs cash to get out of her rut and quick.
Then suddenly, and all too conveniently, she spots an advertisement for a BABY$ITTER offering wages that are too good to be true. As you can tell from the ominous title, that’s where things start to go down hill.
Ti West who wrote, directed and edited the film, does a stellar job at recreating an authentic late 70’s/early 80’s look and feel for the movie. The yellow titles over freeze frames, great use of zoom and the grittiness of shooting on the original, well loved, Super 16mm format that was the staple of these films is again a loving tribute to the genre. Much like the faux trailers in GRINDHOUSE but without being tongue-in-cheek at all. It also had a promotional release on VHS in the USA for all the uber-fans. You could be forgiven for thinking you were watching an 80’s film that values the slow boiling suspense over all else. Unfortunately it seems many audience members didn’t quite get it.
Pace is everything, and for those who enjoy the tension of older horror films over the hyperactive editing and reliance on SFX of newer films, then this will be a refreshing visit to the cinema for you. However if you are like the handful of morons at the screening I attended who couldn’t stop saying “yeah fuckin’ like stab someone aye”. Then this is not the film for you and clearly MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D is more your cup of tea with a splash of bourbon. When the film kicked into an intense overdrive towards the end and some blood was spilt on screen someone yelled out “Finally…” to which I just had to respond with: “SHUT THE FUCK UP!”
Just as quickly as the nightmare begins for Sam, it’s over and I was left feeling a bit disappointed by the ending.
HOUSE OF THE DEVIL isn’t for everyone, but for if you want something fresh, genuinely creepy and scary, check it out. It’s a great film to watch if you’re babysitting… alone… in the dark on a cold July night
Reviewed by Aaron McCann
HOUSE OF THE DEVIL
Dir: Ti West
DOP: Eliot Rockett
SAM: Jocelin Donahue
MEGAN: Greta Gerwig
MR. ULMAN: Tom Noonan
MRS. ULMAN: Mary Woronov
Running time: 95min
Screening: Saturday July 17 at 10:30pm
Selected posters and images from House of the Devil…including the awesome VHS version