The House of the Devil (2009)


Remember a couple of days ago when I mentioned mixing up two movies with similar titles that came out around the same time? After surviving the mostly dreadful Night of the Demons, I was at last rewarded with the excellent House of the Devil, a taut homage to vintage ’80s horror.

I sure do miss the ’80s and all the quaint relics long forgotten in our modern world: rotary phones, tape decks, jeans that came up to your ribcage, and Satan worshipers. Especially Satan worshipers.

The story: Samantha’s doing her best to adjust to college life but her sophomore year is not panning out well, thanks in large part to her nocturnal nymphomaniac roommate. Desperate to get some peace, Sam goes house hunting and finds the perfect off-campus apartment. Trouble is, she can’t afford the first month’s rent, which happens to be due in less than a week. So naturally she gets excited when she comes across a flyer for a babysitting gig a few miles outside of town. Her prospective employer sounds awfully urgent, and she should probably guess something evil is afoot by the way he pronounces “ad-VERT-issment”, but she goes anyway. When the creepy client reveals she’ll be watching his aged mother instead of a little kid, she’s understandably reluctant. But when he ups the paycheck to $400, more than enough to cover her rent, she can’t refuse. And did I mention there’s a lunar eclipse happening that night? It’s kind of a big deal.

Woo hoo, college!

Biggest letdown: Really having a hard time here, since this is hands down one of the best movies I’ve seen all month. If I had one minor gripe it would be that the first hour or so is all one giant, slow climb toward a horrible revelation, but when we finally get there, the climax feels a bit rushed. Along the way there are a few missed opportunities for scares and other nastiness that might have added to the experience, but the pared down story works just fine without false alarms and bloody discoveries cluttering up the proceedings.

One other little qualm: this is an ’80s-style horror movie about a college girl, yet we get precisely zero boobies, even with a sex fiend roomie in the picture. Missed. Opportunities.

The original portable phone: 60 feet of permanently tangled cord.

Why you should watch: I love the simplicity of the story and the pensive mood of the entire piece. Every element is thoroughly thought out and laid bare for the audience’s consideration. Even though we know from the title that this is a job Sam should run from, the high stakes are so well established that her decision seems totally reasonable even with the sketchiness of the situation.

Though House of the Devil purports to adhere to ’80s movie conventions – grainy film, synth music, bright title cards over freeze frames in the opening credits, etc. – in terms of tone, theme, and attention to detail it feels closer to the outstanding artsy horror works of the ’60s and ’70s. The cast is small but every single actor is excellent. In addition to Sam and her delightful friend Megan, both of whom I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of in bigger budget projects down the road, the movie features gangly character actor extraordinaire Tom Noonan. If you’re not familiar with the name it’s because he’s never a headliner, but his towering stature and bulging forehead are hard to forget. It’s a rare treat when he’s given a role that allows him to be articulate and sweetly dignified, even if he turns out to be a satanic wacko.

If you invited your boyfriend over for sex like a normal babysitter you wouldn't be in this mess.

Memorable Moment: It takes a cold-hearted motherfucker to kill somebody and then smoke their still-burning cigarette. The devil approves.

Choice quote: “There’s a number on the refrigerator for a pizza place.”

About the Rating System

4 Responses to “The House of the Devil (2009)”

  1. […] 31 Flavors of Terror A terrifying movie terror-thon of terror « The House of the Devil (2009) […]

  2. […] deserves recognition: the almost too beautiful score by Jeff Grace, who also scored the excellent House of the Devil (last year’s Best Flavor Award winner!) and Meek’s Cutoff. Even if all the original […]

  3. […] dug this movie so down a great distance I was not let. I’m a big Ti West fan because of The House of the Devil, which you may recall took home the top honors back in 2010, and because his name sounds like […]

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