Tom Humberstone


horror month - day 25

The House of the Devil (2009)

"This one night changes everything for me."

Quick summary: Samantha is hired to babysit on the evening of a lunar eclipse. It's in a house off the beaten track. The clients are odd. And they don't have a child to babysit. Satanists? Satanists.

Beyond the immediate nod to 1970s and 80s films with the "satanic panic" storyline, the film feels like a recently uncovered video nasty that no-one knew about. It's shot on 16mm, there are a lot of quiet, locked shots, zooms versus dolly moves, the pacing is deliberate and tense, the soundtrack is eighties all the way, and the credits use a strong yellow typeface against freeze frames - Ti West knows what how to do a homage - and clearly has a lot of love for this style of film-making. Maybe it's my fondness for this sort of horror film, or maybe it's just how successful this film is on it's own terms, but if the Tarantino/Rodriguez Grindhouse project was half this good, I would have enjoyed it so much more.

There's a "based on a true story" title card at the beginning that reminded me of the two Wes Craven movies I watched on the first day of this Horror Month - and this seems appropriate. The film feels like a spiritual companion to Last House on the Left while actually being a lot easier to stomach and much more tonally consistent than that film. It also reminds me of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and other films of the time that used the "true story" opening.

In fact, Samantha - played by Jocelin Donahue - almost looks like Sandra Cassel - the lead in Last House.

The final, gore-filled final act comes relatively late, is surprisingly short, and could strike some as a bit anti-climatic for those looking forward to a bloody finale - but I tend to find the climb of the roller-coaster in horror films much more unsettling and satisfying than plummeting down the other side.

Enjoyed the Walkman dance interlude.

Nice to see Greta Gerwig make an appearance.

Also nice to see Tom "The Tooth Fairy" Noonan.

Lewton bus moment: Greta Gerwig needs a lighter!

Tonight: Finally going to watch Friedkin's Bug (2006) I think.