31 Days of Halloween 15 – House of the Devil (2009)

devil2 House of the Devil (2009) is not a very well-known movie, but it is definitely worth finding.  It is slow-burning and has a lot of suspense, but has an 80s vibe.  Some strangers torment a girl by making her the victim of a satanic ritual.  It is about as straightforward as The Strangers, but the characters have more depth and motivation.  As a whole, the film has a creepy tone throughout, and the absence of any running soundtrack contributes.

  devil5 After Samantha agrees to be a babysitter for Mr. Ulman, her friend Megan tells her that he is way strange.  I agree.  In fact, she’s not babysitting at all, but minding the house while an old lady sleeps upstairs, or so she’s told.  Megan doesn’t like it and she’s the only sane one in the movie.  Needing the money, Samantha doesn’t care.

Megan drops off Samantha at her “babysitting” job and heads home.  She stops for a cigarette and is killed, which is about the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen in a movie.  Not only does this deflate all the suspense, it pretty much telegraphs the rest of the plot.  Now we know something is going to happen to Samantha.  We already know, it’s just a question of when.  The killer later goes to Samantha’s house and joins in on the fun.

devil7Roger Ebert praised this movie as “Hitchcockian”, but it’s pretty boring and filled with stupid stuff unrelated to the plot.  The babysitting and the satantic ritual take up only a small portion of this movie.  The rest of it is Samantha walking across campus, long shots of Samantha heading down a hall, and arguments with her roommate.  She’s cooped up in an old house and wanders around exploring it for ten minutes.  

Beyond the endless walking and environment stuff, there is a good amount of dialogue in this movie.  The film is not talkative, but I think we get enough of it.  The moments of quiet are supposed to be suspenseful, and work most of the time.  Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t close in enough during the talking and at other moments of dialogue, it is too close.  The director Ti West has said that the camerawork was copied from many 80s movies.

devil8Tom Noonan plays the guy who hires Samantha for the babysitting and he’s the best actor in the film.  His character comes off as strange, but not so strange as to raise alarm.  Noonan knows how to convey this unsettling weirdness that I’ve not seen from many other actors.  He used to play villains in the 90s, so he’s back again playing a not-so-nice guy.  I’m familiar with him from television during that period, where he appeared as a creepy guy on The X-Files, Law & Order, and Tales from the Darkside.

All in all, this is a good movie, but it could use some pacing adjustments and tightening.  Jocelin Donahue plays Samantha and does a good job.  Dee Wallace makes a brief appearance as The Landlady, and I remember her from The Howling.  The atmosphere and the mood are some of the best I’ve seen, and Tom Noonan does some of his best work.  It’s just a question of pacing.  The film is littered with irrelevant crap, but it at least delivers when it needs to.


31 Days of Halloween Movie Marathon

1 – Frankenstein and the Monster from HELL (1974)
2 – Dracula has risen from the grave (1968)
3 – The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)
4 – Evil Dead II (1987)
5 – Dawn of the Dead (1978)
6 – Les Diaboliques (1955)
7 – The Howling (1981)
8 – Friday the 13th (1980)
9 – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
10 – Hellraiser (1987)
11 – Let the Right One in (2008)
12 – Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1984)
13 – House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
14 – The Strangers (2008)
15 – The House of the Devil (2009)
16 – Psycho (1960)
17 – The Orphanage (2007)
18 – The Amityville Horror (1979)
19 – The Raven (1963)
20 – Blue Velvet (1986)
21 – Repulsion (1965)
22 – Dementia 13 (1963)
23 – The Vanishing (2008)
24 – Halloween (1978)
25 – Shaun of the Dead (2004)
26 – The Silence of the Lambs (1988)
27 – An American Werewolf in London (1981)
28 – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
29 – The Exorcist (1973)
30 – The Ring (2002)
31 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)