Moody and atmospheric, The House of the Devil is a slow-burning horror with extremely strong eighties vibes. I know that it seems like Rabbit Reviews is turning into an eighties appreciation site with all the recent reviews, but this is just a phase. I hope. One of the things that marked this decade was the so-called Satanic Panic, an occurrence that started in the USA but spread throughout the world.
People thought that satanic cults were taking over their country, ritually sacrificing children, having orgies and just randomly killing people. This movie combines that motive with the infamous haunted house plot into one hell of a mixture. It reminded me a lot of another house, The House by the Cemetery, Fulci’s 1981 classic. It’s even shot on a 16mm film, often used in the eighties, to give it that vintage look.
Written and directed by very talented Ti West, The House of the Devil is not a horror movie for everybody. If you’re looking for that standard-issue horror movie, I recommend you skip this one as you will most likely find it boring. If, however, you’re a fan of horror movies from the seventies and eighties, you will have fun with this one.
Ti used many familiar elements from those movies, carefully constructing a strong narrative that culminates during an intense finale. The entire movie is basically an exercise in suspense building and I will leave you to be the judge whether the ending was adequate after everything we went through. If you liked it, you might want to check out the next couple of movies he made like The Innkeepers and The Sacrament. Ever since his extremely low-budget movie about bats The Roost, he’s been getting better and better and I can’t wait to check out his project Them: Covenant, a horror television show set in all-white Los Angeles neighborhood. I’m already getting strong Get Out vibes from it.
Samantha Hughes, a college student looking for a place to rent finally feels like her luck is turning. She found the perfect house and the landlady even let her have it without a deposit. Still, she’s struggling financially, as your average student in the eighties. Samantha decides to take up a babysitting job for the Ulman’s, an elderly couple living in an old mansion. She doesn’t know it yet, but that decision will get her into a lot of trouble.
One of the things that will help you to immerse yourself in The House of the Devil is attention to detail. Details like dropping your walkman, hair, clothes and other stuff that will immediately take you back to your youth. Hell, I had a walkman in the nineties too and not to mention some of the furniture featured here. I really liked Jocelin Donahue here, her performance was the thing that made the movie so good. Not to mention her good looks, especially in those tight-fitting jeans. Something that shouldn’t come as a surprise since she was Levi’s model in the past. In the end, this is a movie you should watch when you’re in the right mood. If you’re looking for a more visually sleeker and entertaining eighties throwback movie check out The Babysitter.
Director: Ti West
Writer: Ti West
Cast: Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Greta Gerwig, AJ Bowen, Dee Wallace, Heather Robb, Mary B. McCann
Fun Facts: The film is purportedly based on true events but the events it supposedly depicts are never mentioned in the film or in any of its press releases.