House of the Devil is now playing in limited release. You can also access it on demand through many cable providers, and it is available to rent on Amazon.com. So, just in time for Halloween, I give you this review.
If you are a fan of 80’s horror movies, you’ll probably be delighted by this movie. I fear that today’s fickle horror fan, who is accustomed to frenetic stylings à la the Saw franchise, will be bored to tears by this very deliberately paced thriller. College student Samantha (perfectly cast Jocelin Donahue) is desperate to get an apartment in order to get away from her slutty dorm roommate who feels free to have sex in their room all the time. She finds an apartment, and a kindly landlady (scream queen Dee Wallace) who requires a modest deposit.
Samantha answers a dubious ad for a babysitter in order to make some cash. When her best friend Megan drives her out to the isolated mansion, Megan is immediately creeped out, and begs Sam to reconsider. Reluctantly, Megan leaves Sam and promises to return later to give her a ride home.
Character actors Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov play the eccentric couple who hired Sam. They confess that she is not needed to sit a child, they need her to watch “mother.” They offer her an obscene amount of money for the evening and throw in some money to buy pizza as well. Undaunted by these red flags, she agrees.
Director Ti West (Trigger Man, Cabin Fever 2) basically presents a character study of Sam in a creepy antebellum mansion for the entire first hour of the film. Instead of cheap jump scares, he ratchets up the tension and dread slowly, as Sam explores the house. Weird noises and clanging pipes in the house start freaking out Sam, and the anticipation becomes almost unbearable.
You know something really bad is going to happen, you just don’t what, or when. I was very impressed by West’s ability to make me so nervous with so little actually happening on screen. This movie is supposed to take place in the 80’s, and West makes it look like it was shot in the 80’s as well. The film has a very “grindhouse” feel to it with grainy texture and drab tones.
An obvious homage to 80’s horror films, the movie gets everything spot on. Acid washed jeans, flannel shirts, rotary phones, and laughably huge walkman all add authenticity to the look and feel of the movie. Even the movie poster has a distinctly retro look. I won’t give away the ending, but the title is House of the Devil….
If you are looking for a movie to watch this Halloween, and you can appreciate a slow build to the action, give this film a shot.