There is something I absolutely love about horror films that have the eighties look and feel to it. The eighties were all about the slasher flick and campy horror movies that most genre fans love. So, you can imagine my delight when I stumbled upon the film, The House of the Devil (2009), directed by Ti West (Cabin Fever 2, The Roost), which is a throwback to the style of films seen throughout that decade.
The House of the Devil is a slow-burn horror movie that focuses on the ‘satanic panic’ craze that occurred during the eighties. The movie centers around a soft-spoken college Sophomore named Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) who is in desperate need of cash in order to pay for her new apartment.
The coed finds an ad for a babysitting job posted outside her dorm and soon finds herself in the home of a creepy couple, the Ulmans, played by the always awesome Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov. Foolishly thinking that all she has to do is ‘babysit’ for four hours to make the exact amount of cash she needs, Samantha agrees to stay and by the end of the night, her world completely comes crashing down around her.
West has a knack for brilliantly creating an eery and unsettling atmosphere by slowly building up dread for the movie’s final act, which is truly terrifying. Not much is answered and we do not know much about the characters in sense of back-story, however; West heightens the plot’s intensity by carefully revealing terrifying information to the audience while simultaneously keeping our protagonist in the dark.
Immediately, audiences know that our lead is going to be in trouble and once we begin to realize how bad the situation actually is, we wish we could save Samantha from her impending doom. Ultimately, Samantha does come face-to-face with true evil and whether or not she overcomes it isn’t quite clear by the end of the film.
The underrated movie quickly became one of my favorite horror movies because of its style, storytelling, and believable acting by Noonan and Donahue. The film isn’t over-the-top and violent and it scares because there was no boogeyman stalking the babysitter; the villains are just regular people who happen to practice Satanism.
The film plays on the fear that the scenario could actually happen because there are overly religious individuals like the Ulman’s out there in the world. Whether someone is an overbearing Christian or a devout Atheist, people can be pretty crazy when it comes to their faith. All I know is, I’m never going to respond to a babysitting ad again, especially if the person paying me is Tom Noonan.
Overall, The House of the Devil is a must see for true horror fans, especially if you love films of the eighties. The story is different and not something we’ve seen much before, and it plays on a scenario that could actually happen. Not many people enjoy the pace of the film but I believe that it was done right, creating a sense of dread leading up to the movie’s final fifteen minutes.