Friday, February 26, 2010

House of the Devil (2009)

House of the Devil

Written & Directed by Ti West

Samantha Hughes...Jocelin Donahue
Megan...Greta Gerwig
Mr. Ulman...Tom Noonan
Mrs. Ulman...Mary Woronov

During the 1980s over 70% of American adults believed in the existence of abusive Satantic cults...

Another 30% rationalized the lack of evidence due to government cover ups...

The following is based on true unexplained events...

Nevermind that the phrasing of those statistics imply that more than 100% of Americans believed in Satanic Cults during the 1980s.  If the director didn't care, we probably shouldn't either. 

College sophomore Samantha Hughes is in need of her own place. Her current living situation on campus is less than ideal, as she's stuck with a dorm mate who consistently leaves a sweatsock hanging from the doorknob--a variation on the ol' Knockin' Boots indicator. Samantha has found the ideal apartment, but being a student she is a little lacking in the funds department, so it's almost like kismet when she reads about a babysitting job on a campus bulletin board.

Hitching a ride to the isolated house with her best friend Megan, Samantha learns that what she'll be sitting isn't a baby at all. Rather, it is the elderly mother-in-law of her dignified but somewhat eccentric employer Mr. Ulman. Her gut reaction is to flee, but when she learns that four hours of work will more than pay for her first month's rent, need easily defeats instinct.

Stupid, stupid babysitter! Haven't you ever seen a horror movie before? Bad things always happen to pretty young women in strange houses, and tonight being a total eclipse of the moon is just icing on the cake!

There's been a lot of hype about House of the Devil on the blogosphere, so I was really hoping to love this movie. Unfortunately, for the most part this film was like telling ghost stories around the camp fire: fun at first, lots of atmosphere but very few genuine chills, and quite a bit of smoke--being blown right up your ass.

There's a surprising act of violence about 35 minutes in, and a decent finale, but a full hour of the movie is essentially Samantha wandering around the house, slightly spooked. I understand that there is a whole cottage industry for scaring babysitters, but usually--usually--they're actually given something to be scared of.

To paraphrase every guidance counselor that I have ever interacted with, this movie had a lot of potential that it just never lived up to. It was merely a so-so horror film, but as a throwback film it's freakin' genius! From the props (rotary phones, Walkmens), to the locales (single-slice pizza joints), to the wardrobe (high waisted jeans, over-teased hair), and even the cinematic techniques (freeze frames during the opening credits), this movie screams 1980s louder than Warrant ever did. Hell, it was even released on a big-box VHS tape. It's just too bad that the execution couldn't live up to the concept.  I'll go with the similarly themed, but often overlooked, Babysitter Wanted any day of the week.

Call me crazy, but I don't think I'll be adding this to my collection anytime soon.

Well...maybe the VHS version. That's still pretty damn cool.

See what that other J had to say about this flick over at the Cheap Bin!

View the trailer below!

Rated R
95 Minutes
United States

"Talk on the phone. Finish your homework. Watch T.V. DIE!"

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


  1. thank you, on the solid review... i still love the guy, tom noonan.

  2. Yes, pretty much an amazing retro effort, but long stretches of nothing, with a fast, unimaginative finish. Good acting, production values, but average story.

  3. I reallllly enjoyed it (review coming eventually) but I can totally understand almost anyone not liking it. It's slow, it's all atmosphere, and the finale is shockingly short considering the buildup. My expectations were raised, but then I fought them down due to my experience with Trick 'r Treat (which I LIKED but just couldn't fully LOVE the way everyone before me had). Something about HOtD, perhaps its full discipline and devotion to its goal, just totally sucked me in.

    Like Paranormal Activity, this is kind of a it-gets-you or it doesn't type of film. You give a perfect explanation of why it didn't work for you, and I will respectfully join Team Ti.

  4. I respect your opinion, but I loved this film for everything it wasn't. For whatever reason, it worked for me.

  5. Agree 100%. The movie was a real purdy mouth without any teeth.

  6. i agree with Pax i kinda really loved it. mostly for the fact that it was 2 things: 1) no cgi overload. and 2) it was a tried and true concept but not another horror remake of something that came out in the 1980's.

    not perfect by any stretch but not terible either. give it another try in a couple of months i say.


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