Friday, October 9, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: The House of the Devil

The House of the Devil (2009)
Netflix instant

The House of the Devil is a relatively simple story.  A college girl answers a babysitting add, but once she gets there, things are not exactly as they might seem.

After watching a few bad horror movies in a row, The House of the Devil was a refreshing change of pace.  The House of the Devil is set somewhere in the late 70s/early 80s, but unlike most current horror films that are set in the past, this one actually feels like it is from the past.  Even the timing, font, and color of the opening and closing credits are done in such a way that I feel like I'm actually watching a classic horror flick from the 80s.  The director (Ti West) is clearly paying homage to 70s/80s horror - and he is actually doing them justice!  West undoubtedly did his homework in film school.

One of the things I loved so much about this movie (and the thing that made it an incredibly horror movie) is the focus on tension, rather than startles and gore.  There is a very slow building tension throughout the movie and, to me, it works!  I have said in many of my previous reviews that part of what separates true horror from the rest is that true horror stays with you long after the movie.  The horror does not come from just a bunch of things jumping out at you from the shadows, but a deeper and much darker force that plays on real fears.  There might be things jumping out at you in a true horror movie, but it is the deeper tone that sets the fear, rather than just the startle.

That deeper fear primarily takes the shape of the fear of the unknown in The House of the Devil.  Having seen a lot of horror movies in the past, there are a plethora of little things that really set the tone.  The dialogue uses foreshadowing heavily.  The camera angles keep you from seeing too far from the characters.  Scenes that take place at night are almost pitch black outside of the immediate area.  There is very minimal use of "scary" music to let you know when to expect something.  There are a lot of subtle musical queues that raise the tension, but at times I did not realize how long the music had been building.  Even down to details like a lamp casting a shadow which looks like someone hanging, this movie is wrought with tension.

While I think that the tension and the attention to detail are part of what make The House of the Devil so amazing, they could also be the very reasons that some people might not enjoy it.  As I've said, this movie does justice to classic horror movies.  But, if someone has not seen many horror movies and does not know some of the tricks and techniques, it will not have the same impact.  Also, if this is a movie that you put on in the background and only somewhat pay attention to, it will not have nearly the same effect in regards to raising the tension.

Rating and Recommendation:  4/5.  This movie is definitely a must see!  If you are a fan of horror, the sense of suspense that builds throughout the film is almost palpable.  You know the Oscar Wilde quote "the suspense is terrible.  I hope it will last!"??  Well, I am going to modify it slightly to describe The House of the Devil - "the suspense is terrible, it's hard to sustain!!!...but in the most satisfying way possible."  Even if you disregard the horror aspect, I think that The House of the Devil is just an incredibly well done movie.  I feel as though West was clearly inspired by the likes of Kubrick and Carpenter, but without feeling like he was just sloppily rehashing their techniques.  The House of the Devil is only available on Netflix instant until 10/15, so be sure to watch it before it goes away!

Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!

- The Gargyle

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