Sunday, 15 January 2012

The House of the Devil (2009)

Anyone who has a horror blog has probably mentioned this movie at some point.  There's probably nothing left to say about this one that hasn't been said before.  I have no doubt in my mind that the following review is going to be full of opinions you've read elsewhere if you've read the reviews for this film.  But I don't care.  I need to talk about this film.  This is the one of the movies of my generation I can see being heralded as a cult classic decades from now, if society has descended into a wasteland with no appreciation for the horror of the past.  This film made horror exciting and fresh just by taking a step back and simplifying things.  So let's get on to the review and me blowing smoke up the rear of a movie that probably just wants to cool down.

Set in the 80's, a college student is financially motivated to take a job babysitting the kid of a mysterious caller on the night of an eclipse.  As strange as the man on the phone is, Samantha really needs the money to pay for rent and basic living.  When she arrives at the house in the middle of nowhere, she's informed that she'll be babysitting an elderly lady and she was lied to because the couple needed a babysitter in such short notice.  Reluctantly, she accepts the job after being bribed with more money and it ends up being the biggest mistake of her life - the family are Satanists and they plan on using her in a ritual.

The House of the Devil isn't full of gore.  It isn't action packed.  It isn't full of scares.  So what makes it scary?  Well, it's the complete and utter helplessness of Samantha that makes it scary.  You really feel like you're in the movie with her and she's oblivious to everything that's going on - but we're not.  She's in the middle of nowhere with no transport and something terrible is about to happen to her.  The movie is effective because you just know something awful is about to happen, but it keeps you waiting and then when you don't expect it - BAM!!! - it hits you like lightening.

Ti West made a great decision setting this in the 80's.  There was no internet, no fancy phones and basically a complete lack of any form of communication technology.  All she has is the house phone, which was ultimately what got her into trouble when she ordered pizza from a number left by the Satanic family.  The lack of communication adds to the feeling of isolation and helplessness that Samantha is experiencing.  She's also oblivious as to what's in store for her.

Another great aspect of this movie are the settings.  They really compliment the film well.  The house is old and big, situated in the country, surrounded by woodland and away from the real world.  The night time setting outside also has a life of its own to it and you really feel like it's a special night.  It just doesn't feel like any other regular night and you get that 'there's something in the air feeling.'  The full moon, like other horror movies all throughout history, is a character in its own right.

Jocelin Donahue is the sole character for the majority of the movie and does an excellent job carrying it.  Even her simple mannerisms her character has to perform are intriguing to watch.  She makes the mundane and simple seem so interesting.  It doesn't hurt that she's friggin' perfect to look at as well.  She keeps this movie going on her own for the majority of it though and thoroughly deserves all the praise and more.

I believe this movie is a masterpiece of cinema and not just horror.  But unfortunately, it'll never be held in as high regard by anyone other than genre fans.  Although it may still be liked, it's more of a horror fans wet dream because we'd been waiting on a movie like this for some time.  It's a throwback in many aspects but also really fresh.  It's believable, it's authentic, it's engrossing and it stands out (head and shoulders above) most movies from the past few years (and there has been a lot of great movies in the past few years).

So, future horror classic?  I really hope so.  This really made Ti West a name and as a result I look forward to anything he does in future.


  1. I liked it but I didn't love it. I recommend that you also check out the enjoyable Babysitter Wanted if you haven't yet seen it.

  2. I haven't seen that one so I'll check it out. Really want to see more movies similar to this.

  3. Damn you again for making me buy this. MAKING me ;-)