Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring AJ Bowen, Dee Wallace, Greta Gerwig, Jocelin Donahue, Mary B. McCann, Mary Woronov, Tom Noonan
Directed by Ti West
Distributed by Dark Sky Films
The decade known as the Eighties was a really weird time. Disco was giving way to new wave, slasher films around 1987 had stopped being violent, and hair styles grew bigger by the year … or in some cases by the minute. You know you have those pictures hidden somewhere. We all do. In the beginning of the decade there was one thing running rampant through our society, such as it was. Satanic panic, man! Everyone was scared shitless of abusive devil cults and the supposed evil that they wrought. Ti West’s film The House of the Devil capitalizes on this point in time perfectly, but before we get to that, how about a quick plot crunch? It stays crispy in milk, ya know!
Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue, turning in a stunning performance) is your average college sophomore student. She’s working hard toward making her grades but is unfortunately really low on cash. Desperate, she takes a job babysitting for the Ulman family, who come equipped with their own uber-creepy mansion for her to wander around. The only trouble? Things just aren’t what they seem and play out not to her expectations, but hey, she does need the dough!
So the question beckons — what could be so important that the Ulmans needed to resort to chicanery to get her to accept the job? The family in need, comprised mainly of the ever-so-unnerving Tom Noonan (at his disturbing finest) and fellow genre vet Mary Woronov, must go out for the evening to witness a full lunar eclipse at midnight, and they just can’t bear the thought of leaving their kin alone. Strange? Yes. Red flag? Definitely, but the money is more than good. In fact it’s a huge sum for those days. Reluctantly our protagonist agrees, and as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, things go from weird to bad to really fucked up in a hurry.
The House of the Devil has quite a few twists and turns, some of which will leave you with your jaw on the floor. With this film Ti West creates what is no doubt the perfect homage to movies from this era. In fact, I’d hazard to say that if I would have caught this on television late one night and didn’t know that it had just come out, there wouldn’t be a doubt in my mind that this movie was made at any other point in time than the early Eighties. It’s quite the illusion and masterfully pulled off. Everything feels amazingly authentic from the clothes to the style of filmmaking. Speaking of which …
Movies from this period in cinema were deliberately paced. This one perfectly mimics the slow-burn horror film that a lot of us remember growing up on. It even comes complete with the sudden awkward ending that was pretty standard for its day. The only problem is that this may turn off a lot of people who are used to quick editing and frantic cuts. Those folks (misguided as they are) may find the proceedings a little bit on the dull side. For those of us who can appreciate and fondly remember, The House of the Devil is a home run and then some!
There are even three ways to appreciate the flick at home. DVD, Blu-ray, and yes even on VHS complete with the over-sized box and Gorgon Video stamp. Again … an amazing homage. In terms of image and sound quality, I have to give it to the VHS. Okay, I’m lying, but wow, that felt cool to write. Anyway, of course the Blu-ray looks best. It damned well should, but the DVD is pretty spiffy, too. Either way you’re golden.
In terms of extras, both disc-based packages are home to identical bits of supplemental material. Things kick off with two commentaries — one by writer/director/editor Ti West and actress Jocelin Donahue, and the other with West, producers Larry Fessenden and Peter Phok, and sound designer Graham Reznick. The livelier of which, believe it or not, is the one featuring West and his producers. There’s some really classic stuff here. From there we get two featurettes — the nearly five-minute long Behind The House of the Devil, which features lots of interviews, and the almost fifteen-minute long In The House of the Devil, which is comprised of lots of raw behind-the-scenes footage. Moving on, we get about seven minutes of deleted scenes (nothing too important) and the film’s trailer. All in all it’s a pretty good haul.
The House of the Devil is definitely not a movie for everyone. Ti West clearly had a target audience in mind, and for them it’s a bullseye! Scary, twisted, and yes, at times shocking, this throwback for all its old-fashioned ways is nothing short of a breath of fresh air! Here’s to seeing what West can come up with next!
4 out of 5
4 out of 5
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