The House of the Devil Directed by Ti West
Starring Jocelin Donahue, Greta Gerwig, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, AJ Bowen, Dee Wallace
Dark Sky Films
Release Date: February 2, 2010
When entering into The House of the Devil, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I had heard some good things about it in passing, but it was one of those movies where I didn’t read one review. Even more rare an occurrence for me personally, I hadn’t even seen one single trailer for the film, making it an almost completely natural movie-watching experience. And when it was all said and done, I must admit: I might just start approaching all movies with this complete lack of prior knowledge, because it paid off big time.
The House of the Devil tells the story of an average young college girl named Sam (Jocelin Donahue) who’s in an average college girl section of her life. When she lands a new place to live and get her out of her terrible dorm living situation, it’s great news for her; but it also creates bills that she doesn’t exactly have the money for.
When she notices a job posted on a bulletin board looking for babysitters, it’s the perfect answer to some immediate income, and the cushion of a couple of months to get situated and find a much better income solution. Sadly, the job doesn’t appear to play out as she had hoped, and the stress begins to really set in. But like a blessing from above (or a curse from below), the family seeking a babysitter contacts her again in desperate need of her services. Something feels off, but she reluctantly accepts with simply no other options available to her, and has her best friend Megan (Greta Gerwig) give her a ride there to make sure everything is legit.
As always, click over for a lot more and to watch a trailer for the movie!
At first arrival, there’s a tension in the air, and seeing the unexpected size of Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan) when he answers the door doesn’t seem to help. This tension grows as Mr. Ulman explains that he hasn’t been totally honest, and that he and his wife (Mary Woronov) have no (young) children, and that they actually need Sam to care for “Mother.” An explanation isn’t enough as Sam quickly changes her mind and attempts to leave, but the promise of a life-saving $400 payoff is too good to deny, and Sam decides to take her chances anyway.
For a while, things go perfectly boring for her. She wanders around, trying to stay entertained. She tries the piano, shoots some pool, orders a pizza, and checks the TV to see if anything is on — none of which help to make this strange night go any quicker. And just when you think that Sam might have just been worrying too much, fear not, when the light goes out, it all goes so very wrong, and Sam finds herself fighting for her life.
The one immediate thing that distinguishes The House of the Devil apart from other films is the tone that it sets. Director Ti West not only made a film set in the 1980s, but he made an actual ’80s movie, just like the classics many of us grew up with. The fonts used for the opening credits, the style of filmmaking, the music, and everything else is purely of the decade. This is ingenious because for many people, it acts as instant nostalgia and will have you pleased before the actual movie even begins.
As for the movie itself, it is a prime example of simplicity equaling perfection. Very little even goes on in this film, but you’re still constantly wondering what will happen next and when this “house of the Devil” will become what it promises to be. This is a clever mixture of knowing that you’re watching a horror movie and being fully aware that something has to give eventually. As soon as Sam takes the babysitting job, you know it’s only a matter of time before all hell (literally) breaks free. When she actually goes to the house, you cringe and shoot magical chants her way, hoping to get her to change her mind. When she finally decides that she can’t pass the job up, you sigh, and shake your head at the knowledge that this girl has just sealed her fate. But even then, as time continues to pass by in the movie and Sam struggles with boredom and nothing to do, you still might wonder whether or not she’ll make it out of that creepy house without any problems.
The performances given by this cast were phenomenal. The biggest stars in the movie are cult icon Tom Noonan (Monster Squad!) and indie darling Greta Gerwig (Hannah Takes the Stairs, Baghead), who should be in every movie ever made as it is, but everyone involved offered up top-tier efforts. Donahue is a relative newcomer, but still is required to command the entire screen all by herself for a large portion of the film. If this doesn’t score her a bunch of new job opportunities, then Hollywood’s casting offices need to seriously re-assess their strategical approach.
Being a big fan of horror, but also someone who rarely gets scared, it’s movies like The House of the Devil that really do the trick. While I love a good mindless slasher with ridiculous violence and a hell of a lot of shock value, it’s movies like this who know how to achieve fear, and that of course is in the unknown. When a movie takes the time to really pay attention to building suspense and perfectly placing bumps and bangs and other sounds at the proper moments, you’re a lot more likely to find yourself shivering under your blankets. At the same time, this movie does not try and fit in with all of those PG-13 horror movie imposters that I loathe so much. It does a great job at being a subtle, simple horror film for a while, and then when the time is right, it comes at you with a fury that can put a lot of other horrors to absolute shame.
To put it all much more compactly: The House of the Devil had me nervous and freaked out for the majority of the film, and then slapped its nightmare directly into my head before I could even brace myself for it.
If that’s not the sign of a job well-done, then, well…nevermind that — it’s a damn good job well-done!
There’s not a ton of special features including with the movie, which is no big surprise with a movie that’s this small. Thankfully there is still some cool little things to check out.
Included along with the normal commentaries, deleted scenes, and trailer, there’s a couple of great behind the scenes featurettes called In the House of the Devil and Behind the House of the Devil. Both give a very cool look at the making of the film; not in an educational or boring way, but simply in a way that makes you feel like you’re hanging out on the set, and they’re both great fun.
Aside from that, this is a movie based you need to own just based on its quality as a horror movie. And even better, you’ll be able to pull this bad boy out when you have friends over, and show them a movie they may not have even heard about.
Here’s the trailer, but I must remind thee: I went into this without having seen this and it played perfectly not knowing what to expect. I would suggest you do the same, but if you just don’t care, the choice is yours!