House of the Devil

| May 30, 2010

Ti West, if you haven’t been keeping track of him lately, has had sort of a strange sort of infatuation with retro fare. After seeing “The Roost”, I had an idea how he was looking to handle his movies. Turns out House of the Devil was going to be another example of retro fare.
House of the Devil features Samantha, a girl who’s looking to start making something of her life. She’s got an apartment, and she’s looking for a way to pay for it. She’s got a deposit to cover, and not much money left in her account. So when she gets a shot at a one night babysitting gig paying more than enough to cover her deposit, she jumps at the chance. But the job turns out to be a lot more than she bargained for…and she may not get out alive.
I’ll admit, right off, that the first hour or so of the movie is scary, but also a bit dull. See, they’re doing a terrific job of building tension here. But the problem is that they’re not doing a very good job of RELEASING that tension with an appropriate number of jump scares or anything like that. The end result is a strange combination of disturbing and confusing, as you’re left wondering just where the hell Ti West is GOING with all this.
And that’s the big problem here. They’re not doing anything particularly wrong with this movie–it’s eerie, it’s atmospheric, you could even call it a bit moody, but it’s not very scary. In fact, by the time the ending shows up, you’ll actually be a bit more confused than you will be scared.
The ending, in fact, is the biggest problem with the whole movie. Something horrible is clearly going on here but I’m not even all that sure just what IS going on. It’s like someone interspersed bits of other horror movies into the last ten minutes, like someone has replaced the last twenty, thirty odd pages of script with a big bold face print that says “RANDOM SATANIC STUFF GOES HERE”. It’s perplexing. And those bits of it I actually DO get seem to be just giant knockoffs of stuff I’ve already seen.
Rosemary’s Baby-sitter, anyone?
The special features include audio options, English and Spanish subtitles, cast and crew commentary tracks, a behind the scenes featurette and a bonus featurette, a trailer for House of the Devil (as well as a whole slug of them that weren’t accessible from the DVD menu itself but played on their own, a technique that never ceases to irk me) and some deleted scenes.
All things considered, I’m not really happy with how this one turned out. It’s a bit too retro and the ending is a bit too confusing for my tastes. However, if you’re into retro movies, then you might well enjoy this one. I say, stay out of the House of the Devil.

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