Monday, 1 March 2010
THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009)
"The House of the Devil" is an 80's-centric breath of fresh air (as contradictory as that sounds) amidst the over-edited and mega-processed PG-13 horror flicks that have been pooped out of the test-marketed movie anus in the last few years. In fact, director Ti West has wisely set "THOTD" firmly in the 80's, before cell phones ruined many a good horror movie premise.
College student Sam (an easy to like Jocelin Donahue) needs cash to make the down payment on an apartment so she can leave the shambles of a dorm room she shares with her messy and frequently fucked roommate. Finding photocopied posters advertising a babysitter position, Sam eventually snags the job, and against the pleading of her best friend Megan (an awesome Greta Gerwig), she's dropped off at a creepy home far from the comfort of the shopping mall. There she meets the Ullmans played by the always welcome Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov. Mr. Ullman admits that the babysitting job is somewhat of a ruse as it's actually his wife's elderly mother that needs care taking. He explains that it's difficult to find people who are willing to shoulder the responsibility of caring for the elderly, while childcare seems a comparatively attractive proposition. And anyway, Sam's elderly charge will spend most of the night asleep (shades of "Burnt Offerings"). Sam agrees to stay, but for a greatly inflated fee that will more than take care of the down payment on her must-have apartment. Landlady (the great) Dee Wallace will be pleased. Cue the "babysitter alone in a creepy house" atmospherics.
Aside for the cast, the great strength of "The House of the Devil" is the way in which the story unfolds. It's a simple premise, simply told, and for patient viewers, the film's atmosphere (both that of the 80's and that of a horror film) and slowly growing sense of unease are a winning change of pace; never boring, never less than engaging. Unfortunately, when we DO reach the climax, it's a bit of a letdown. Here, West has to put his cards on the table and stop playing subtle. Not a terrible ending, mind you, just not on par with the rest of the flick. It would be interesting to see how it would have played with a more "Blair Witch"-style ending.
"Talk on the phone. Finish your homework. Watch TV. Die." How can you say no?