The House of the Devil

Dir: Ti West

Rating: 2.0/5.0

Magnet Releasing

93 Minutes

Oh, you silly Satanists, it’s as if you have a one-track mind. I mean seriously, what movie about Satanic cults hasn’t featured said Satanists trying to impregnate a young girl in an attempt to bring Lucifer onto this mortal coil so he can wreak havoc or what have you? For many concerned moviegoers, Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby wrote and closed the book on overeager cult members grappling to stick a dabble of demon seed up some poor unsuspected woman’s hoo-ha. Do we really need to see it again with The House of the Devil?

Ti West’s film announces its intention to ape low budget ’80s horror flicks with splashy synthesized music and garish title cards. Yet, The House of the Devil is not a campy send-up that features Jesse Eisenberg and Kristin Stewart looking uncomfortable in Keds as “Rock Me Amadeus” plays for the Nth time. Nope, the grainy cinematography, slow pace and rhythm make The House of the Devil feel as if it came out with those old Wes Craven and Dario Argento cheapies. Unfortunately, homage isn’t enough to add anything original to the proceedings.

College sophomore Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) has just been approved to rent an apartment (landlady played by ’80s horror mainstay Dee Wallace) yet she doesn’t have the cash to cover the rent. So, she applies for a babysitting job in the hope to rouse the money for the rent. If you look at the title of the film you know this isn’t any ordinary casa. But when Samantha is hired by the sinister Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan), things slowly begin to get creepy.

Rather than rely on cheapo scares, The House of the Devil slowly peels back our layers of comfort as its run time unfolds. Once Mr. Ulman and his wife (Mary Woronov) step out to enjoy a historic lunar eclipse, Samantha begins a bored exploration of the house leading to discoveries that become more and more unsettling. This is not a slick ’00s remake where the gore per minute factor is an important necessity. While it admirable that West goes back to a period of horror that relied on atmosphere more than blood, we expect a payoff. Unfortunately, as the dread builds to a fever pitch, West’s understated pace actually leads to yawns rather than white knuckles.

So is The House of the Devil a protest against the modern state of horror? It could be. I would much rather watch something like this than another Jason remake. But at a Jason movie I am expecting to laugh, here I want to be scared. Unfortunately, none of the slow setup really pays off as all we get are ridiculous conclusions out of Satanism 101. Spend your Halloween watching something else.

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