So often, we see movies that are supposed to pay homage, or be shot in a specific style from a specific era, and so often these movies don’t quite do what they mean to. It comes off cheap, or lazy, or hacky… but sometimes, a movie comes along with a specific look and feel, and it nails exactly what it was trying to do. Right . On. The. Fucking. Head.
House of the Devil is one of those movies.
In the 1980s, college student Samantha Hughes takes a strange babysitting job that coincides with a full lunar eclipse. She slowly realizes her clients harbor a terrifying secret; they plan to use her in a satanic ritual.
The movie is shot in the style of horror films from the 70s and 80s and couldn’t get that look more correct. Just the fact that the movie was shot on 16mm film, and features ‘One Thing Leads To Another’ bring the movie into the right feel for what they were going for. With a few exceptions (thanks a lot ‘Goofs’ section on IMDB), the movie is basically a perfect homage to the movies it is paying tribute to.
This is the movie that first brought film maker Ti West to my attention as well. I’ve been sold on him ever since, and deeply love his slow-burn style of story telling. That is the very thing that seems to polarize people in their opinion about West though. So, I will give you this bit of ‘fair warning’ when it comes to his movies. They build tension, slowly, and for a very long time. He has a real knack for building suspense and really setting the mood of each of his films. They are not action packed, but they are also not especially long. If you’re not someone who likes atmospheric horror, then stay away from his movies. However, if you ARE someone who likes exceptional horror movies (with some exceptions of course…) then watch Ti West’s movies.
This is a really great movie.
The actors are all fantastic. The main character, played by Jocelin Donahue (Insidious Chapter 2), is extremely likable (and not to mention, extremely cute) and delivers a solid performance, she also seems to really understand the era of movies that they are recreating. Everyone else in the movie delivers great performances, including one that really stuck out to me from Tom Noonan, with a pretty creepy performance as the soft-spoken Mr. Ulman. Plus, how could I not mention the phenomenal Dee Wallace in a small role.
As I mentioned before, the story burns quite slowly, but once our heroine arrives in the house (of the devil…) things really start to kick off and the climactic 20 minutes of the movie are intense, brutal and frightening. It also really escalates from 0 – 100 really quickly. Though, it admittedly does return to its slower pace after the first death in the movie.
The movie definitely has some brutal death and is genuinely creepy all the way through. It also has the same sense of camp, and fun that movies from the 80s had. The homage is very real and loving , and you get a sense that everyone involved was very enthusiastic about what they were putting together.
It’s certainly a strong film from Ti West, and he has only gotten better since. You can check out a review I did of another one of his films by clicking HERE.
Anyways, I love this movie. Tremendously.
You will too. This is definitely one of my favorites and a great introduction to one of the better names in modern horror.. Mr. Ti West.
FINAL GRADE : B+