In The House of the Devil, Samantha Huges is a down-on-her-luck college student in the 1980s. Desperate to escape her lazy, sleazy roommate, Samantha scrounges up the money she has and looks for a new house to live in. Although she finds an affordable, attractive home, the deposit is due sooner than she’d like. Luckily, she finds an ad on campus for a babysitting job that pays well. It seems like a dream come true. Only, when she arrives at the home, Samantha finds that the man on the phone wasn’t completely honest with her about the evening, in more ways than she could have imagined.
I’ve only seen two of his movies so far, and I already feel that Ti West is one of the greatest filmmakers of our generation. While many have focused on the extreme gore of the earlier decades, West has narrowed his focal point to the slow burn of tension. Each shot establishes an older tone, especially for movies that are being released in the 2000s. Don’t get me wrong, I love gory movies, but I appreciate West’s style. He has really captured the essence of what makes great horror films.
West has a vision, and he knows how to execute it. Instead of going for the consecutive quick scares, or the repulsive torture scenes, he opts for the slow pace of terror that creeps under your skin and stays put. West took his time building tension in this film. It took a long time for things to happen, so you have to be patient, but the ending is worth the wait. West’s tranquility makes his moments of terror that much more frightening. The slow zoom and long shots really add to the buildup of suspense, and the result is one chilling film.
Besides the development of anxiety, this film reeks of 1980s-style horror. Even the big, bold letters of the title that is placed directly over the current shot is very reminiscent of the ’80s. The clothing, music, and style of the film all look and feel just like you’re watching an old thriller like Fright Night. Also, the fact that West refuses to shoot on anything but film contributes to the movie’s nostalgia.
The actors help make this film what it is. Jocelin Donahue is charming as the sweet babysitter Samantha, who’s trying to gather enough money to gain her independence. Tom Noonan is utterly creepy as the man who hired Samantha, and Mary Woronov is equally eerie as his wife. AJ Bowen is also in it, a man who’s really starting to make a name for himself in the horror industry. Recently, he was in Adam Green’s Hatchet II and Joe Lynch’s Zom-B-Movie. He’s also going to be in Danielle Harris’s directorial debut, Among Friends. Dee Wallace makes a cameo in the movie as well, as the landlady who gives Samantha a break.
Although the film does have a slow stride, the ending is so alarming and fast that you’ll wonder how the time went by so quickly. There are also other shocking moments scattered throughout the film, which are both unexpected and brutal.
I don’t want to ruin this film for anyone who hasn’t seen it, so I won’t say too much about it, but everyone should watch it. Whether you’re looking for old-fashioned horror film or a new movie to watch alone in the dark, you will enjoy this movie. Ti West’s potential is seething through the screen in each scene, and I can’t wait to see what he brings to the horror community in the future.