The House Of The Devil
If I was shown this film by a friend, knowing absolutely nothing about it beforehand, I would have been 95% certain that it came from the 1980s but, wait, you mean to tell me it came out in 2009!? Yup, you’ve got it, The House Of The Devil is a contemporary horror film that shares nothing with most of its contemporaries. Heck, it even opens up with a “based off of true events” text sequence that was made (in)famous by films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The House Of The Devil isn’t so much a period piece as it is a true-blue homage to horror filmmaking from the glorious era of the 70s and 80s.
Okay, so just how far does The House Of The Devil go to convince its audience that it’s a homage to be reckoned with? Well, to start with, 16mm film was used which gives the film a definitive 70s/80s vibe since that was the medium used during said decades. All of the clothing, devices (such as a cassette Walkman), vehicles and hair styles coordinate the 80s and are all, thankfully, quite convincing. Furthermore, the film’s director – Ti West – has a sense of cinematography that hearkens back to the glory days of the past with slow, atmospheric and tension-building shots that will certain remind one of 80s Carpenter, for example. Conceptually The House Of The Devil, like many of the movies from the 70s and 80s, is a slow-burner that builds and builds itself up into a gruesome climax, mixing haunted house elements up with a pseudo-Satanic vibe … oh, yeah, there may even be a crazy family in there somewhere too. Sound familiar?
Most of the film’s duration is spent in a large, seemingly haunted mansion that is adorned with all kinds of ornate set-pieces and paintings to give it a legitimate, eerie atmosphere. Amidst the mansion is a lone girl babysitting and she is, yes, a very 80s chick: she dances around jamming to her walkman, breaks a seemingly expensive vase along the way and even orders some crust-heavy pepperoni pizza that looked about as good as it tasted, I’m sure. All seems relatively normal, right? Well, needless to say, things get a little more intense but I will spare you the details just in case you haven’t seen The House Of The Devil yet. Once things do culminate into the territory of pure horror and terror we are presented with the film’s one flaw: its pacing. No, it’s not that it’s bad throughout the film because it’s not but the final sequences of the movie feel a bit too rushed, giving The House Of The Devil a feeling of being a bit too “top-heavy” for its own good. The ending is quite satisfying, yes, but I wish that the more immediate events leading up to it would have been integrated better into the otherwise slower pace of the film.
Despite the aforementioned complaint The House Of The Devil was a sheer delight to watch. I definitely prefer the “golden days” of horror to the modern variety and I couldn’t believe how authentically presented Ti West’s vision was for being a 2009 film. Quite simply, if you’re a fan of the old stuff you owe it to yourself to give The House Of The Devil a viewing and, yes, there’s even a VHS version of it out there for you VHS hounds. Cult stuff, no doubt. A very good film that, despite its pacing trouble, is one nearly all horror maniacs will gobble up like a chocolate Charleston Chew. Recommended!