Saturday, February 6, 2010

The House of the Devil (2009)

One of the biggest loads of crap the media tried to pull in the 1980's was the stories of ritualistic abuse and sacrifice committed by satanic cults. It seemed like every week that pretentious dorks in black robes were sacrificing people in the name of Diablo. Well, that whole thing turned out to be what it sounds like today-a bunch of crap. I know, the media making a mountain out of a molehill is nothing new, but this was the 80's, and people do tend to believe stupid things. Nonetheless, the idea of satanic sacrifice is one that is certainly creepy, and a staple in the horror genre. One of the most recent example of this is Ti West's tribute to all things creepy about old school horror called "The House of the Devil."

"House" deals with a girl named Samantha (Jocelin Donahue), who really needs some money. Fortunately for her, the Ulman's (Mary Warnov and Tom Noonan) need somebody for a babysitting job, and they are willing to pay plenty. That's all great, but her friend Megan (Greta Gerwig) is not so sure about this, and for good reason. Why would they have stood her up earlier, and lied to her about who she has to look after? Why would they want her for this job on the night of a full lunar eclipse? What's with the weird scratching noise coming from downstairs? What's with the weird pizza guy (AJ Bowen.) Long story short, it all turns out that there is more to this than Samantha thinks there is, and she's going to find out soon enough.

One thing that can be said about "The House of the Devil" is that it serves as more proof that Ti West is one of the best director's working in the horror genre today. While most feel the need to pilfer scenes from classic horror movies to get the feeling of 70's and particularly 80's horror, West knows better. He understands the value of dread and suspense. He understands how to work with a slow crawling atmosphere. He knows how to throw in gore without shoving it in your face. In short, he just gets it. "House" is a slow moving movie that takes it's time-there are a few moments where some audiences may feel bored. However, West knows how to make that wait work to the film's advantage. The more it goes on, the more you get the feeling that not only is something bad about to happen, but also that it will not end well. By making you wait, West builds a sense of almost unbearable tension (especially within the final 30 minutes), as if you are watching someone you've gotten to know for a short time end up in a dreadful situation. By making the audience get to know Samantha a little, the movie makes her eventual fate all the more unnerving.

If there is any problem with the movie, it's the conclusion. It just doesn't completely feel right, as if the director had forgotten to add a proper wrap up to the events beforehand. It's not a cheap happy ending-it's anything but that in fact. But it just feels too sudden and half thought out.

Still, "The House of the Devil" is one of last years best horror movies for a very good reason. It fully understands the necessity of anticipation and restraint, all without catering to anybody or holding back in the blood department. If you haven't seen it yet, give it a chance-it just might get to you even more so than "Paranormal Activity."

Rating: 9/10

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