"The House of the Devil" DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review (2010)

10/30/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

"The House of the Devil"

Directed by Ti West, Written by West, 95 Minutes, Rated R.

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

Horror films were all the rage in the '80s. Slashers, satanic cults, haunted houses--there's not a single other decade like it when it comes to the vast amount of cliched horror that was released. Many of the franchises ("Friday the 13th," "The Amityville Horror," "Nightmare on Elm Street") have gone on to be remade, and the style itself has been homaged and spoofed numerous times throughout the '90s and '00s.

"House of the Devil" is one of the first films of the past 20 or so years to actually take those '80s horror classics and recreate the style entirely, no spoofing, no satire, no irony, just plain, good old '80s horror. Perhaps filmmakers in the '80s were getting it right, because "The House of the Devil" is one of the best horror movies I've seen in a long time.

The film combines elements of all three primary '80s horror elements--slasher, satanic cult, haunted house--and even uses the typical protagonist of such films, the generally innocent young woman. Jocelin Donahue, in her first major role, plays Samantha, a college student in the early to mid-'80s who is desperate to find some money to afford a downpayment on a new apartment so she can escape from her awful dorm room.

An opportunity comes along when she finds a flyer seeking a babysitter for one night, the evening of a lunar eclipse. Her friend, Megan (Greta Gerwig, also a newcomer), gives her a ride to the house in the middle of nowhere. We all know when the front door opens revealing a suspicious looking man of slightly extraordinary height that this won't be any normal babysitting job.

The film is a real slow burner. We follow Samantha for a good half hour before the suspense really starts, and knowing her character and her situation assists in the building of horror later on. This is just one of many things filmmakers did right in the '80s but which isn't quite the norm today. The film also manages to make Samantha likable, which is a rarity in horror films these days (at least without making the protagonists virtually faultless). The easy pacing also makes for a great amount of urgency, and an almost unbearable tension once things start to get going. Of course, there are a couple shockers before the fun starts, mostly involving AJ Bowen (the absolutely brilliant horror regular from "The Signal," among others) as a mysterious and goofy murderer.

Director Ti West, who has worked exclusively in the horror genre for most of his career, has a definite sympathy and understanding for this kind of film, and he films it in just the way it would have been back then. Everything all the way down to the credit sequence, special effects and editing is totally '80s, and where some films that attempt such a thing end up looking obvious and pseudo-retro, West completely pulls it off. If you watched "The Amityville Horror" and "The House of the Devil" back-to-back, you'd be hard-pressed to find any major differences in style.

The film goes kind of wild in the last 20 minutes--another similarity to its inspirations--and it sometimes gets a bit excessive. But for the most part the film is an absolute wonder. It's funny, thrilling, and very true to its source, and like all of these kind of films should be, it's a lot of fun.

Grade: B+

View the red band movie trailer for "The House of the Devil" below.  What are your thoughts?

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