Ti West films can be very divisive, you either love them or hate them, and I have to be honest, I fall firmly into the like them category. Having said that, the first time I sat through The House of the Devil, I was a little disappointed by it, people are right when they say not a lot happens for a large portion of the film. But it’s all buildup, and slow burn, culminating in a chilling climax.
But it took me the second time through it to see that.
Now, I really quite like it. I love the building creep, and all the things that add to it. It’s all shot very much like an 80s, low budget horror. From the film stock, to the credits, to the production design, not to mention, the casting of familiar faces like Tom Noonan and Dee Wallace in suporting roles.
Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) is a university sophmore trying to scratch up enough cash for her own place, and get away from her dorm flatmate. She’s got a chance at a place thanks to an understanding landlady (Wallace) and just has to make some cash before Monday to pay her first month’s deposit.
And despite hating kids, she’s even willing to respong to a babysitting gig. Responding to an ad from the increasingly mysterious and unnerving Mr. Ulman (Noonan), Sam finds herself in a remote home, and a surprise, when Ulman reveals he doesn’t want her to look after a child, but his unseen mother.
He pays her triple to secure her services, and with four hours work, her financial woes may be temporarily forgotten.
But there are things afoot. There’s a lunar eclipse happening this night, and there’s truth to the fear that ran rampant through the 80s… satanic cults are everywhere!
The film claims to be based on true events, something that has never been substantiated, but is perhaps seen more as a nod to the horror films of the time like Amityville and Chainsaw.
Featuring some 80s tunes, and shocking gore when it happens, this 21st century film feels very much like a throwback to that earlier era, riffing on tropes of the genre like satanists, slashers and the old dark house.
It’s easy to see why some people don’t care for it, they want to be visually catered to and fed an easy narrative throughout, they don’t want to invest in their horror films, they just want the thrills. This one just wants to simmer, constantly, before bubbling over, and dousing everyone in vile fluids in the final act.
This one seems to pop up on people’s radars every now and again, and if you’re wondering if you should give it a chance – if your a patient movie watcher, and enjoy the mood being set, and characters being maneuvered into position for a bit of a scare and shock, especially if you love the films of the 70s and 80s – do it!