The House of The Devil

February 22, 2010
Before seeing The House of The Devil, I had no clue who Ti West was - let alone if he was a director. After watching this film, though, I'm glad to say that we can expect some great horror films from West in the near future. Taking a concept straight from the cheap horror flicks of the '80's, West adds suspense, chills, interesting characters, and a fantastic slow pacing to make a lame cliche into a great film.

As I said, the concept for the plot is something you'd normally see in a low-budget B-movie. Samantha, a cute college girl, is planning on finally making her first down-payment on a one-bedroom apartment - one's she presumably had her eye on for quite some time. There's just one problem, and that's the fact that Samantha only has $84 in her bank account. After a quick check of the job board, Samantha finds a simple babysitting job with good pay, which is $100 for four hours. However, after arriving with her friend Megan, Samantha finds out there is no child, and that there's more going on than she ever could have conceived.

Granted, the concept may sound cheesy, but Ti West manages to pull it off with great style. The characters, all of whom are interesting, never come off as annoying or cliche, thanks to some great performances by the entire cast. It was a relief to have, for once, a very likable heroine in a horror film. I'm not sure why damsels-in-distress and slutty girls are so popular in films like Nightmare on Elm Street, because characters like Samantha and Megan behave like actual people, and it's therefore a lot easier to like and care for them. Even the family that hires Samantha is pretty interesting, never steeping into a cliche "horror family". This makes them much more approachable than someone along the lines of, say, Leatherface.

The pacing and cinematography are another great selling point for The House of The Devil. It's easy to see West's influences in his work, as the film is shot like a Kubrick film, has the tension of a Hitchcock film, and the grotesque elements of a Polanski picture. This mixture of elements between some of cinema's great directors - plus its fantastic characters - boost the film above most horror flicks that have come out in the past decade. The pacing, for instance, takes its sweet time in its narration. Never does it rush or drag, only pulling the film along at a naturalistic pace. The cinematography is also to be praised, for its long, lingering shots, as well as its chilling use of shadow and imagery.

A small thing to note, that I personally liked, was how subtle the film was in showcasing that it took place during the early 1980's. I've seen a lot of movies that beat you over the head with 80's references, almost as if every line had to have some pop-culture reference. "Dude, Devo is opening for REM on the day before Regan's speech! Let's listen to our eight-track while we wait in anticipation!" Blah, blah, blah. However, in this film, we're just given casual references that remind us of the time period without bashing as many as pop-cult references as possible. This isn't necessarily some strong point of the film, rather a pet peeve that was avoided by a pretty smart horror film.

I loved virtually every element of The House of The Devil. The characters, the pacing, the way it was shot, the terror - all of it was quite enjoyable. There is one major complaint, sadly. I won't give anything away, but the payoff at the film's climax didn't do too much for me. It was still pretty good, I'm not saying it sucked, but it pales in comparison to the dark and creepy atmosphere of the film. I will, however, state that I did not see the final twist coming at all. It's a great twist, too, not something you'd see out of an M. Night Shymalan film.

It's dark, atmospheric, character-orientated, and comes with plenty of lingering/haunting shots. The film's ending may have left something to be desired, but the rest of the film is a smart, subtle, and rather enjoyable horror picture.

8.5/10 - Great

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