Finally. The House Of The Devil has made its way down under. Sure, it went direct to DVD. Sure, it’s been out in other territories for 33 years, but it’s finally here and I finally got to see it. Finally.
Shot, edited and directed in a style almost identical to a late 70’s or early 80’s horror movie, The House Of The Devil is more than just a pastiche of, or homage to, films of that era. It’s a genuinely suspenseful horror that’s much creepier than many of its modern contemporaries. Whilst I was being facetious when describing the lateness of the film’s release here, it could actually pass for a 33 year old film.
Like most films of this ilk the plot is pretty light on. Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) is a college student sharing a dorm room with a young woman who seems to have only two modes of operation; shagging and sleeping. Neither of which she is capable of doing quietly. So Sam decides to move out and rent a house of her own. Oddly, she makes this decision before figuring out how she is going to make the rent payments, so subsequently snookers herself into taking a suspect babysitting job in order to raise the cash.
The baby sitting job is “suspect” because the creepy client, Mr Ulman (Tom Noonan), lives in a house in the middle of nowhere, and is initially deceitful about the true nature of the babysitting gig. After offering Sam more money than she can refuse, Ulman and his equally creepy wife (Mary Woronov) leave Sam alone in their house to look after their aging mother who, Sam is assured, will probably not even emerge from her upstairs bedroom.
What ensues is a series of increasingly tense moments as Sam explores the house and uncovers the truth behind what the Ulman’s really get up to when they’re not eating out.
She doesn't know it yet, but Sam's gonna need a bigger knife.
Anything I have to say about this film is going to read like really old news to many readers. The House Of the Devil came, saw and conquered North America several years ago, but on the off chance there’s any uninitiated readers out there here’s the deal…
If you like your horror slow and suspenseful The House Of The Devil will have you gnawing your fingernails off, or curling your toes until they cramp, or whatever it is you do when a suspenseful horror film totally creeps you out. If, however, you like your horror frantic and bloody then there’s every chance this film will put you to sleep.
Me? I felt very tense for a good proportion of the film’s running time. I love films like this that use fairly innocuous elements to wind you up with anticipation. Of course, writer/director Ti West does such a brilliant job of building the suspense almost any conclusion was going to be an anti-climax, and… well… the film’s final act is a little bit of a letdown. When the evil inside the house is revealed I could literally feel the tension easing. It just wasn’t as horrifying as I was anticipating, but I don’t think anything could have been.
The House Of The Devil is a thoroughbred old school horror movie that is arguably more effective than most of its modern contemporaries. My only hope is that if Ti West makes a sequel it won’t be delivered down under via the same drunken, disabled, carrier pigeon that delivered the original.