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In 1983, financially struggling college student Samantha Hughes takes a strange babysitting job that coincides with a full lunar eclipse. She slowly realizes her clients harbor a terrifying secret, putting her life in mortal danger.
There's something to be said about the attention to detail. Very few horror filmmakers possess that quality and it shows in their efforts. Ti West is not one of these individuals. He wrote, directed, produced, shot and edited the film "House of the Devil" and his superb attention to detail is what separates this film from the rest of the pack and turns it into one of the best horror films of the year.
Set in the early-1980's, the film is an homage to those babysitter horror films like "When A Stranger Calls". It centers around the character of Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue) who, after getting her own place, realizes she's flat broke. She takes a job babysitting for a strange couple, the Ulmans. Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan) has some bizarre happenings with her before they ever meet face to face, and when they do Samantha realizes they have no child and that she will actually be sitting for their elderly mother. Her best friend Megan (Greta Gerwig) warns her that everything seems a little too creepy, but she insists she needs the money.
When Megan leaves and the Ulmans depart, that is when the movie takes off, so to speak. Most of this film is flawless execution -- the building of tension and suspense. The thought of what 'could' be lurking behind every corner. Ti West builds the doom and dread like an expert carpenter and creates a claustrophobic sense of place and time that I have not seen in a horror film before. The music is authentic and chilling. The cinematography is pitch-perfect. The costume design and set decoration are just fantastic -- from the authentic Coke cups in the pizza joint to the amazingly recreated television broadcast.
What I appreciated most about the film was that it didn't care to take the time to build the story. It takes twists and turns that the audience doesn't expect and it delivers on countless levels. Jocelin Donahue is the perfect choice for the role and has that combination of innocence and uncertainty that Carol Kane also possessed. Tom Noonan is at his creepiest in a role that could have easily been overacted by another. He plays it with slick polish and a skill for the genre. And Greta Gerwig and A.J. Bowen have a lot of fun in their roles.
I recommend this to horror fans everywhere. It's a crisp and exciting homage to a horror sub-genre that is all too forgotten these days. I can't wait to see what Ti West tackles next.
- added November 13, 2009 at 6:20am
I've had this one queued up on Xbox for a while
now, but I've been putting it off until I would be
able to review it. Since you reviewed it, I went
ahead and fired it up. Holy shit, I wish I hadn't
waited so long: this really is a damned fine
horror movie in every way possible. I'm not sure
I'd go so far as to call it perfect (I felt there
was about five minutes of padding when she
explored every room in the house), but other than
that... yes, that review sums it up. 9.5/10.
- added November 13, 2009 at 10:29am
You might have seen a different version. There is
one version that is 8 minutes longer than the
version I saw. It's the difference between the
festival cut and the distributor cut. That might
have been the padding to which you are referring.
- added November 13, 2009 at 12:17pm
It had great acting and a good story, but I felt
it dragged a little to much for me. Also I like
AJ Bowen and can't wait to see him in future
- added November 13, 2009 at 5:25pm
I assume it was the distributor cut as it was
officially released through Xbox and VOD around
the same time, but I can't confirm that. Anywho,
I'm referring to the way she walked next to the
stairs and played the piano a bit, then went
upstairs and looked in the billiards room, then
went to the room with the desk and sat down for a
while, then went to the bathroom, then went to the
empty room, then.... well, you get the idea.
- added July 2, 2010 at 7:10am
so so so bad. please don't watch it unless you
want to see a girl doing nothing for 45 mins then
a very poor 10 minute ending with bad acting
- added October 8, 2010 at 9:39pm
I have mixed feeling on this one. I fast forwarded
through the first 15 minutes, Im sorry but I
CANNOT stand watching some chick walk around
aimlessly for long minutes at a time while
listening to her radio (and this not even being
during the opening credits and all). Then when we
get to the house the build up is still painfully
slow, BUT I do appreciate the fact that she was
doing just about everything right. No stupid ditz
standing next to an open window screaming for no
reason crap here...... Was that a strange noise
outside? Let me get a knife from the kitchen to
set next to me while Im watching tv......
end was a pretty awesome payoff tho. Not that
there was a twist or anything original but this
chicks reactions were so effin sweet, SO unlike
what you usually see in horror movies. I even
caught myself yellin "YEAH!" at the
screen a few times.
- added January 26, 2013 at 1:10am
There was something about this movie that just
draws me in. I know for the first half, it kind
of drags but the second half really makes up for
it. I thought it was just creepy and unsettling
at times, like all that tension was just building
up. I can see why some wouldn't care for it but
for me I think it was a real winner. 8/10.