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The House of the Devil

Those who know me personally know that I am often very cynical about new horror movies. Lately, the vast majority of horror films are about shock value and cheap scares. I am a child of the 80's & 90's. Back then, instead of shock value, horror films had unique characters such as Freddy, Chucky, Pinhead, Jason, Myers, Rawhead Rex, and so many more. Instead of cheap scares, these films had interesting lighting, story development, and some of the creepiest scores.

THotD - Total 80's
Even the type of film that was used to film with, is 80s...

Today I am thrilled to review House of the Devil (HotD), released 2009. It was written and directed by Ti West. HotD stars Jocelin Donahue as Samantha, a college student struggling to pay rent. Samantha finds a babysitting job that seems too good to be true. The strange client has her jumping through hoops, before she finally gets the job, which happens to be out in the middle of nowhere. Samantha pleads with her cautious friend Megan, played by Greta Gerwig, to give her a ride. Megan, who is from a well off family, has a bad feeling about this babbysitting job. She suggests that Samantha could ask her father for financial help, instead of taking this shady job. Samantha opts to put in the small handful of substantially well-paid hours, and convinces Megan to bring her.

When Samantha gets to the house, she is greeted by her client Mr. Ulman, played by Tom Noonan, who informs Samantha of some deception regarding the babysitting job. Turns out, he actually needs her to watch his elderly mother. While Samantha's first intinct is to leave immediatly, Mr. Ulman makes an offer (financial) she can't refuse. After Samantha agrees to the position, the Ulman's (Mrs. Ulman is played by Mary Woronov) provide Samantha with some helpful suggestions (emergency contact, local pizza shop, etc), before leaving Samantha on her own. This is where the tensity of the film starts, and the true horrors of the film manifest.

THotD
Great use of lighting to enhance the tension.

Regarding other elements of the film, the mother/goat character's makeup is my only big complaint. MotherGoat certainly looked deformed, but was far from believable. The story and characters are great, but I haven't fully embellished on what truly made this film stand out. What really impressed me is how believable the film's 1980's setting was in both its writting and camera shots. Clearly this film was inspired by horror films from this time. Never before have I seen such an excellent job of captureing the 1980's horror essence. Everything from music, wardrobe, props, and especially the cinematography were executed extraordinarily well. While I was blown away by this 1980 feel, there are some mistakes that almost made me wish that I stopped watching (just after the pizza pass out). The last ~10 minutes of the film loses it's wonderful 80's look, mainly due to the change in lighting. The type of blood used in the fx, along with MotherGoat, are out of place; Why does MotherGoat have the hands of a 20 year woman while performing the ritual?

THotD
Not enough blood!

All in all, this is a film I would watch again, even if I skip the last 10 minutes. A great cast, a great crew, and great direction all indicate that this film had some creative brains put into it, 4 to be precise. I highly recommend House of the Devil, and you can find it on Netflix.

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4 brains out of 5

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