Written & Directed by: Ti West
Starring: Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov
There has been a LOT of hype about The House of the Devil from the States in the past few months and after having watched the trailer my curiosity was acutely aroused. I can now happily say it did not disappoint me.
The set-up is the most cliched of horror set-ups, babysitter stuck in a scary house in the middle of nowhere and we pretty much know that the owners are Satanists looking for a victim for their lunar eclipse sacrifice. Not only is the film set in the 1980's but it goes to great pains to recreate the vibe of an 80's straight to video horror movie. This is one of the most impressive things about the film. I know it isn't necessarily something that should decide whether or not you like a movie but they do such a great job here that it dredges up all kinds of fear that I had forgotten I had since I was a child watching scary films when I wasn't supposed to be. I blame this for my remarkably uncool behaviour when watching this film. Hiding behind cushions, making conversation during tense scenes in order to distract myself and even, and I'm not joking, hiding under my own t-shirt.
What's wonderful about this film is that after watching a slew of self-referential horror films, you know that modern horror films know exactly how to play with conventions and scare the crap out of you by what I like to call "cheating" but others might call "being creative". The House of the Devil creates tension by always keeping the audience guessing that they might "cheat". They rarely do but my lack of trust in them led to every single scene from about the first half hour onwards being a complete and utter headwrecker. I must applaud the filmmakers for the lack of action in this film. Not much happens at all until the last ten minutes but the sense of dread is almost intolerable throughout. Ti West's script and his direction plays with the audiences heads, always keeping them thinking that a huge fright is just around the corner, even though it rarely is. Some have said it's a dull movie and nothing happens, I forgive them for that lapse in judgement because what's thrilling about the film is not the action thats taking place, its the sheer genius and remarkable originality that's going on behind the camera that makes this brilliant!
This is a truly terrifying experience that will most likely only work the first time you watch it, but repeated viewing is recommended for the script's brazen use of convention and the production design's attention to detail. So postmodern its not postmodern at all...or something to that effect.
- Charlene Lydon