Tuesday, June 8, 2010

House of the Devil (2010)

Title: House of the Devil (2010)

Director: Ty West


A new batch of horror directors is slowly emerging from the ashes! I always look forward to new talent, new voices, cause lets face it Carpenter, Hooper and Craven are slowly but surely fading away from the horror genre. And once you’ve seen all the important horror films, there’s only so many times you can talk about Halloween or Texas Chainsaw Massacre before you start sounding like a broken record. But new horror directors like Ty West are appearing on the scene and it’s great to see them making their first horror films. Its great to see them taking their first steps into the annals of horror. Only time will tell if these new directors will stand the test of time or if their films will be memorable or not. But it’s always interesting to see them try. Case in point: Ty West’s House of the Devil.

This films premise is extremely simple. A girl looking to make some cash to pay her rent accepts a babysitting gig. Once she arrives at the place, she realizes that its not really a babysitting gig, all she really has to do is hang around the house watching over this old lady who doesn’t like to be bothered by anyone. So basically, all she has to do is mope around the house, order some pizza and watch horror movies. Unfortunately, the family that has requested her “babysitting” services has other plans for this young girl!

I was looking forward to this movie because I read a lot of positive reviews on the net about it. So I decided to give Ty West a chance, let him prove himself as a horror director. I have to say, I definitely see some promise in his filmmaking. House of the Devil wasn’t entirely perfect, but it shows that he is a good horror director in the making. What did I like about this film? One of the things I enjoyed the most was the look of the film. House of the Devil takes place during the 80’s, so the characters dress like people did in the 80’s, they don’t have cell phones and they listen to their 80’s music in a walkman. Im thinking the only reason why the film takes place during the 80's is because there were no cell phones yet so it harder to call for help in a dangerous situation, in this way, setting the film in the 80s can make certain scenes more tense. Strangely enough, though the filmmnakers were trying to evoke that 80’s horror movie feel, House of the Devil's title sequence actually reminded me of Italian horror films from the 70’s. The films slow burner nature reminded me of those horror movies they used to make, where the film really took its time to set its premise and slowly build up its suspense. Stuff like The Amityville Horror (1979), Rosemary’s Baby (1968) (the biggest influence on this film in my opinion) or The Changeling (1980).

I did enjoy how we slowly get to know the films characters. The young college student who is trying to make some cash, her lazy, unorganized best friend. And the strange but generous employers. I liked how we slowly settle into the situation where the girl has to stay in this spooky house practically all by herself. Everything is going fine and dandy up to this point. The problem for me is that the film spends way to much time with the main character searching every possible room in the house and doing the most mundane and unimportant things. A huge chunk of the film is spent with the girl opening doors, checking out rooms, turning door knobs, switching on the lights, going up stairs, going down stairs…you get my drift. This is something I truly despise in a film because nothing actually happens. I get it that as a director you want to build suspense, and this technique is actually valid in horror films, but you cannot over do it or else you risk your film getting redundant and boring. You have to balance this kind of technique when making a film. One thing is building suspense, another is being boring. Which is what happens for a huge part of this movie.

One of the films many promotional posters

After a while, you kind of get the feeling that the film has too many scenes that are placed their simply to fill some time. Problem is when a scene feels unnecessary, you risk audience disconnection, you risk having your audience not care for what is happening on screen which is what might happen to you while watching House of the Devil. This is actually kind of sad because they could have amped up certain elements to make the girls moments alone in the house a bit more intense. This is really the films only true fault in my book.

Thankfully, the films last 20 minutes are solid. Once we find out what is really happening in the house, well then things turn interesting. As the title suggests and the films opening title sequence lets us know, this film is about Satanists. People who worship Satan; the villain from Christian mythology. Don’t know how many of you out there find Satanic Cults scary, but I actually find them silly and laugh inducing in a sense. This kind of premise might have worked better during the 70s, where people found this kind of thing horrifying, but audiences are kind of savvy nowadays. They are harder to scare. For example, during the 70s when films like The Exorcist (1973) and The Omen (1976) were released, you might have found audiences petrified in their seats, scared out of their minds. But when The Exorcist was re-released during the 90’s I actually saw kids laughing in the theater!

Making the villains in your movie Satanists makes them look ignorant and stupid. Well, at least in my opinion anyway. But still, an ignorant and stupid villain does not make him or her less dangerous; which is probably why the last minutes of House of the Devil were effective in my book. The way I see it, when ignorant people take their twisted religious beliefs as seriously as the Satan worshippers in House of the Devil did, then they turn dangerous because they are willing to kill people for their beliefs. As dangerous as the nut jobs who lived on Summer Isle in The Wickerman (1973).

Director Ty West, the future of horror?

My final thoughts on House of the Devil are, that it shows promise. Some directors take a while before they get any good, so Ty West could very well end up becoming the next great horror director, I just don’t think he has gotten there yet. I’m not saying this is a bad film at all, I just found it kind of simplistic, redundant in certain areas and boring in others. On the positive side, the performances were not bad at all, the gore takes you by surprise and is actually quite believable and excellent. It was well shot; but I have to say that the camera movement wasn’t as smooth as it should have been in certain scenes. This is something that Ty West could look forward to improving for his next film. The lighting in the film was very atmospheric and dark, made the house look very menacing. I’m looking forward to the next Ty West film, let’s hope he only goes up from here on in!

Rating: 3 ½ out of 5

 The House of the DevilRosemary's BabyThe Changeling


Bryce Wilson said...

Glad you liked it Franco.

One of my favorite bits on this movie has to be that it has the greatest use of a gun in a horror movie I've ever seen.

"Are you the baby sitter?"

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, that scene blew me away. It was the one scene in the movie that caught me completely off guard, I was feeling uneasy with that guy already...and what I liked the most about that particular scene is how it lingers on a bit more after the event, we see the guy looking all sorts of crazy and cool at the same time.

Jake Riley said...

I am definitely gonna check out this flick! It is currently on Netflix Instant Watch, and has just found its way into my queue ... now if I could just get a spare moment ...

Jeffrey said...

I also hope West can continue down this path.

I think I may have like this a tad more than you did. In that I kinda' went nuts for it. Maybe it just caught me on the right day or in the right mood but it completely blew me away. I adored every frame. I kept clear because I feared it was just some sort of jokey retro piece but his use and recreation of the 80's, for me, just added to the creepiness of it all.

LOVED the use of the old Fixx tune "One Thing Leads to Another." Talk about audio foreshadowing!

Another reason why this film tripped my trigger so much? It's probably the first film in a decade that... made me... nervous. Not scared, per se... caught myself chewing a fingernail... nibbbling a knuckle... I'm so "horror jaded" that any film that can do that... WOW!

Hey, nice blog you run here, by the way!

Franco Macabro said...

@Jake: The movie has its moments, and it purposely builds its tension little by litte. Hope you enjoy it.

@Jeff: Thanks for the kind words Jeff. I liked it, but noticed one or two flaws. But I didnt hate it at all, I actually enjoyed many of its better moments. I just wished there would have been more of those "moments"

One thing I forgot to mention on my review, that I really liked about it was the isolation factor! It really felt like she was out in the middle of nowhere! Loved that about it.

venoms5 said...

I enjoyed this one lots. I think the total lack of video game special effects that filmmakers today feel the need to force feed us was the key to the success of horror films of old. I would love to see more in this mold.

Franco Macabro said...

I did enjoy the old school approach the film had, and that there was no cheesy CGI, I mean, even the blood wasnt CGI, something way too many movies are abusing nowadays.

This movie was a breath of fresh air when compared to a lot of the straight to video crap thats being produced these days, like for example LAID TO REST. God what a bad movie!

I Like Horror Movies said...

What I found most interesting here is that you liked the last 20m over anything else Franco, I absolutely loved the slow build that echoed BURNT OFFERINGS, but I couldnt stand the ridiculous over the top ending only for the fact that I felt it destroyed everything else the film had taken such time and care in establishing. Im so glad you got to this one because I always respect your opinions and this one has caused a huge divide amongst fans =D


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