Review – The House of the Devil (2009)


by Henry Hill

“During the 1980s over 70% of American adults believed in the existence of abusive satanic cults… Another 30% rationalized the lack of evidence due to government cover ups…The following is based on true unexplained events…”

Sometimes a movie comes along that has been out for several years before you discover it, and immediately after watching it, you want to tell all your friends about how much you liked it. 2009’s Horror The House of the Devil is one of those films. It was recommended to me by a friend, and after watching it, I highly recommend you do the same. Fans of the horror genre clamoring for movies like the classics of the 80s will especially enjoy Ti West’s twisted tale.

The plot of The House of the Devil is a familiar one. College student Samantha Hughes (Jocelyn Donahue) is sick of the dorm life and is ready to rent an apartment of her own. She meets with a landlady (played by horror icon Dee Walace) who is very nice and sympathetic towards her, and she not only agrees to rent the apartment to her, but tells her that she won’t charge her the safety deposit and she’ll only be responsible for the first month’s rent of $300. Needing to come up with the money, Samantha sees a babysitter wanted sign outside of her college. She calls the number but nobody picks up. As she is walking away, the pay phone she called from rings and the voice of a man (Tom Noonan) tells her that he and his wife are in need of a babysitter for the night so that they can attend a party where they will watch the lunar eclipse that will be happening at midnight. After some initial trepidation and suspiciousness due to the man’s odd behavior, Samantha agrees to come out to meet with the man at his house which is of course way out of town in the middle of nowhere. Samantha’s friend Megan (Greta Gerwig) agrees to drive her there and to go in with her to make sure everything is OK and that Samantha isn’t in any danger. When they arrive they are greeted by the man, Mr. Ulman, and are led inside. Samantha discusses the situation with Mr. Ulman and finds out that he hasn’t been 100% truthful about the job, but after an offer of $400, she agrees to stay until they get home shortly after midnight and after some coaxing, Megan agrees to leave and to come pick Samantha up after midnight when the Ulman’s return home. This is as much plot that you’ll want to know going into the movie. What makes the movie work so well is the tension that builds as the night goes on and what eventually happens in that house.
One thing that I really enjoyed in this movie is the excellent camera work from director Ti West. The film doesn’t look or feel like anything that was shot in the late 2000s, rather it genuinely has the look and feel of an 80s movie down to the details of the vehicles, clothes and Walkman that Samantha carries around with her everywhere she goes. Within the house that most of the movie takes place in, West does an excellent job of building suspense by following Samantha within the dark hallways and rooms throughout. A graveyard nearby also adds to the eeriness of the setting. The film also features an impressive score including a few familiar songs from the time period, such as The Fixx’s 1983 hit “One Thing Leads To Another”.  This song is utilized during a key moment in the film when Samantha falls prey to a common horror cliche.
Horror movies too often rely on cheap scares like jump scares or sudden loud noises to try and frighten the audience, but The House of the Devil for the most part steers clear of that and instead focuses on the fear that arises from the unknown. As Samantha slowly discovers the truth of the situation, the dread increases until all is revealed and she finds herself in a life and death situation. Another problem that a lot of newer horror movies have is that they use an excessive amount of gore, oftentimes choosing to use cgi instead of practical effects, for no other reason than to make people feel sick in the pits of their stomach. The House of the Devil does get gory, but it isn’t used excessively and it contributes to the story. The actors all do well in their roles, especially from Jocelyn Donahue and Tom Noonan, who have some memorable scenes together.
The House of the Devil is a great choice for a Friday or Saturday Night viewing when you feel like watching a scary movie. Turn off the lights, turn up the sound, grab your popcorn and be prepared for a fun throwback to the great horror movies of the 80s. I’m giving The House of the Devil 4 out of 5 hairpieces.
Scwshhhhhhh! Cheers mates!

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