Release Date: May 4th, 2012
Runtime: 1hr 35min
Director: Ti West
Writer: Ti West
There’s a lot to like about The House of the Devil honestly. It’s a slow building, atmospheric, well-acted, creepy film that pushes most of the right buttons.
The House of the Devil isn’t like Phantasm, which I plan to review soon, it doesn’t hop right into the thick of it. It’s paced much more like a psychological thriller while not actually being one exactly. I actually love the build up and the feelings it creates, I just don’t like that you check the time and realize there’s only about 25 minutes left for for it to pay off. I would have liked the movie to be about 15 minutes longer, I certainly didn’t want any cut, it’s all good stuff.
Aside from that, which isn’t even a true negative, it’s nearly all positive from there.
The look of the film is very convincingly early 80’s. The picture style with it’s imperfect clarity is well done. And let us not forget the clothing and hair. Samantha and her friend, Megan, are so reminiscent of films like Sleepaway Camp and other similar movies from that time. I often found myself letting go of knowing that it was made in the 2000’s. For one, I don’t care enough to hold it accountable, but really, it does a great job of making you a believer without trying to push you too hard by way of 1983 radio hits. There is a song or two in there but it isn’t obnoxiously trying.
Speaking of that, the soundtrack reminded me of films like Amityville and the original Friday the 13th. That’s a good thing in my book. I think most horror fans from the 70’s on appreciate a well-made soundtrack created for the film itself that isn’t top 40 cuts. It tells you when to sense danger and creates fear without going too far. It retains a bit of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre quality where it isn’t constant nor always overpowering.
As for acting, it’s all solid. Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) does a good job giving us someone to try and identify with while giving it her own spin. Sometimes she feels older than her age while others, right on. The supporting cast is good too, I’m a Tom Noonan fan for his work in many other things but most recently the AMC show, Hell on Wheels. I won’t go into everyone but the other few bigger characters do their job well.
Now, let’s get to the actual story and things.
The film sets you up pretty quickly with the answer to the question, ‘what will be the motivation for our character, Samantha, to have ties to this house of the devil’? Dee Wallace (The Howling, Cujo, Secret Admirer) pops right out in her role as a landlord who’s going above and beyond to help our leading lady into a place of her own. Samantha needs her own place because her roommate is not what you’d look for in one. She likes to play the field but doesn’t try to keep a clean house. To have your own place, you need money. This is what brings the story together, Samantha needs a way to get the $300 for the first month’s rent in less than a week. Whether she gets it or not is up to you to watch and find out but I will say that it’s true what they say, there’s no such thing as easy money.
After finding a flyer that says someone is seeking a babysitter, she decides it might be a quick way to come up with the other $216 she’s lacking. After being stood up and getting the runaround, she indeed gets the job.. thanks to a little help from Megan.
Once arrived, she gets the rundown from Mr Ulman that she’s not actually sitting for a child but for Mrs Ulman’s mother. She negotiates $400 out of him after threatening to take off. The whole vibe is odd, he’s desperate and the eclipse that’s supposed to be happening that night keeps coming up. Mrs Ulman is just as odd, if not more-so than her husband.
As they take off to do God knows what, Samantha does something I’d never do in such a creepy house owned by creepy people; explore, dance and relax. I kept thinking to myself, and even had the conversation with Miss Massacre during, that there’s just no way that’d be me. She agreed. But then my daughter interjected, ‘they have to do things like that or it wouldn’t be a horror movie’. Consider me told. And while she’s right, I don’t think anyone, no matter if they are a Sophomore in college, an 8 year old or a senior, would do some of the things she does. You can watch it for yourself and see, maybe you would. I’d sit in the corner, quietly waiting for the couple to return so I could cash in and get out. A lot of suspense builds during these scenes, I felt on the edge and was just waiting for something to happen.
Something does happen. In fact, what you probably expected happens but it does come with some surprises, it isn’t simply to the point and done. I do want to add here though that the direction they went with Megan, I did not expect it.
I won’t ruin the ending, I don’t want to talk about it at all because it’s absolutely worth seeing and I don’t want to mess that up for you. I was lucky to get through all these years without someone spoiling it for me, so pay it forward.