Horror Month-THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL
Within the first 10 minutes of watching The House of the Devil, I started feeling a bit nostalgic. Right away you notice the retro 80’s look of the movie, which is mostly due to the film makers shooting in 16mm. I would have been completely fooled into thinking that writer/director Ti West’s movie was a 1980s Horror movie if I hadn’t known already it was made in 2009. That isn’t the movie’s only achievement though. Everything about it fully embodies a 80’s Horror movie. The story, the characters, and the music completely immerse you with this idea. It’s told in the same vein as John Carpenter’s Halloween, and it nails that tone.
The story is pretty straight forward. Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue) is a college student who needs money for the first month’s rent for her new apartment, so she answers an ad for a strange babysitting job. It’s strange because the client, Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan), is urgently in need of a sitter for that evening and is somewhat aggressive in obtaining one. He brings up the fact that he and his family just moved into town for the lunar eclipse, and it is the best place on Earth to see it. That’s the gist of it and all that should be known about the movie. It’s rather flat, I know, but the execution is very good which makes the movie pretty enjoyable.
The movie relies on slow, suspenseful storytelling. I mean really slow. Normally that would be a huge issue , but it works here. Mainly because Ti West really commits to developing Samantha’s character and making her amazingly likeable. He achieves this with great success. She’s a fantastically sweet girl who doesn’t judge people. Unlike her best friend Megan (Greta Gerwig) who instantly judges Mr. Ulman and makes insulting remarks behind his back to Samantha, she isn’t quick to make assumptions about the man and pleads with her friend that everything is going to be fine. She just needs money for her apartment, it’s not her place to make judgements. She’s actually very similar to Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in Halloween. She just goes about the night very innocently, and when we finally get to the film’s payoff, well let’s just say that it kinda can bum you out.
The House of the Devil is a successful throwback to Horror films of the 1980’s. It accomplishes its goals of suspenseful storytelling and slowly building tension as the movie treks along. The movie flourishes with a combination of a remarkably likeable lead, commitment to strong character development, beautiful cinematography, intense atmosphere, really awesome music, and a rewarding third act. It was a surprisingly enjoyable experience, and I’m glad I stuck with it because it can test your patience. Just give it a chance.