Tuesday, March 9, 2010

House of the Devil (2009)

A poor college student accepts a high paying babysitting gig at a remote house in the woods in order to pay for a new apartment, but she soon finds out that the family has much more nefarious plans for her... Director Ti West brings this throwback to the Supernatural 70s and 80s to the small screen with a unique design and approach that does an excellent job at capturing the look and feel of the era. Soft lensing and other subtle nuances create an authentic 80s aesthetic that is a far more credible attempt than the forced nostalgia that was applied to Quentin Tarentino's GRINDHOUSE experience. HOUSE references Horror classics like WHEN A STRANGER CALLS and BURNT OFFERINGS, where the real menace throughout much of the picture is delivered by the house itself, turning common household items and noises into night terrors. The Ulmans are awkward and off-putting from the start, while convincing in their own creepy way. Jocelin Donahue has a natural small town look and feel as the naive and desperate Samantha. She is one of the few actresses to downplay her performance, thereby becoming the character in a truly believable way. After a slow but steady build, West injects several shots of adrenaline that break up the lengthy exposition with legitimate thrills, keeping just enough interest in its viewers with a short attention span while completely appealing to fans of a slower breed of Horror film. The occult elements that close out the picture end up becoming its weakest points, contradicting the methodical build of the rest of the film with cheap shocks and excessive gore in an anti-climactic and rushed finale that begs the question "Why?" Why put so much effort into the calculated character and plot development just to end on such a low note? Despite the drop off in the end, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL is an excellent Independent effort that calls back to a simpler time, when slow, brooding plots and actionless suspense were acceptable frights over sensational big budget FX and gore.

Rating: 8/10.
Gore: 6/10.
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8 comments:

  1. You said: "...The occult elements that close out the picture end up becoming its weakest points, contradicting the methodical build of the rest of the film with cheap shocks and excessive gore in an anti-climactic and rushed finale that begs the question "Why?" Why put so much effort into the calculated character and plot development just to end on such a low note? Despite the drop off in the end, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL is an excellent Independent effort that calls back to a simpler time, when slow, brooding plots and actionless suspense were acceptable frights over sensational big budget FX and gore."

    My main problem here with what you've said is two-fold... first, SOMETHING had to happen in this fucking predictable snooze-a-thon, instead of just a bunch of fake scares and shots of a girl walking up and down stairs, hence the gore and devil shit at the end (which everyone saw coming a mile away & still wasn't enough to justify the preceding 90 minutes, I say). Second, having seen as many horror movies as you have, how could you NOT find this completely unoriginal and dull and derivative as hell, a slow as -fuck- meandering walk to an unsatisfying, foregone conclusion?

    I'm goin' completely the opposite of ya on this one, good buddy. I hate HOUSE OF THE DEVIL.

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  2. Good review, Carl. I liked it, too. The end wasn't too bad, to me. We KNEW we were leading up to something horrific. A few plotholes here and there, but all in all, a solid flick I would watch again.

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  3. I bought in fully in the first two acts up until the end. Even though it drew from many other genre films, I felt that it was handled extremely well for a film of its kind without becoming the over glossy mess that we had in the WHEN A STRANGER CALLS remake. Everything was obviously leading up to some sort of devilish plot in the end, but the look and feel of the finale is entirely different from the rest of the film and derails it. I think it could have been handled much more subtly, like your personal favorite ROSEMARY'S BABY J., without turning a quick 180 and becoming an all out gore fest. We just get this extremely slow build that leads up to what should be some sort of shocking psychological end that is squandered in just a few quick minutes of blood. I wanted more from the villains, more ritual, and less carnage I guess.

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  4. agreed and well said. liking the slow build in my horror this was more than watchable it was refreshing. the ending while a little flat did have a little sweet mixed in the sour.

    when she went for the eye i thought nice touch.

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  5. Agree 100%. Loved the movie up until the end. Dropped on our heads!!! Why??? That's the proper question indeed. Great directionk, great performances, great tonality...but didn't pull through for me.

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  6. I agree,I loved the whole look and feel of the film,and to me we got the unexpected thrust on the first kill,no one saw that coming,after that scene I was even more into the film cause I just knew shit would hit the fan at the house in a matter of time,just needed to be patient and it was worth it.
    Great blog btw

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  7. This was so not my type of film, but I adored it regardless. The main character was so compelling, I actually cared about what happened with her and her friend. Such a good film.

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