The House of the Devil

The House of the Devil is currently available on instant Netflix.

The House of the Devil (2009) – Rated R

“A cash-strapped college student named Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) takes a babysitting job during a full lunar eclipse and ends up fighting for her life. She soon discovers that her employers, Tom (Tom Noonan) and Mary (Mary Woronov) Ulman, are hiding a wicked, sick and twisted secret. Ti West (Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever) writes, directs and edits this terrifying film set in the early 1980s. Greta Gerwig and AJ Bowen co-star.”

“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…”

The House of the Devil is clearly a very personal project for Ti West. West writes, directs and edits this ode to 80s filmmaking. The House of the Devil rewards patient viewing. There is no over-the-top gore nor are there ‘kills’ spaced every fifteen minutes to keep you interested. This is a slow character-driven movie about a babysitter who gets in over her head.

Those of you who miss the 80s (and who doesn’t? I met my wife in 1982 and married her just as soon as the 80s were over) will find plenty to love here. Kudos to the costume designers, hair dressers, and set decorators for their fine attention to detail. The movie is filmed in 16mm (common in the 80s, especially for horror films) and features a lot of film grain. The attention to detail visually and in the script is amazing.

Even West’s cast is a throwback to 80s genre films. Underrated character actor Tom Noonan is wonderful as the creepy Mr. Ulman in The House of the Devil. In the 1980s he played serial killer Frances Dollarhyde in Manhunter, the Frankenstein Monster in Monster Squad, and Varrick in F/X.

Cult actress Mary Woronov, also wonderful, plays opposite Noonan as Mrs. Ulman. She spent the 1980s Eating Raoul (couldn’t resist) and also appearing in Night of the Comet, Chopping Mall, and Black Widow. Dee Wallace is excellent in a brief role as Landlady. For those who weren’t around in the 80s, she starred in E.T., The Howling, Critters, and Cujo.

Obviously the younger characters cannot be played by 80s stars. Jocelin (The Burrowers) Donahue does a good job of carrying the film as our young babysitter, Samantha. Greta Gerwig (No Strings Attached) does a fine job as her best friend, Megan. AJ (The Signal) Bowen rounds out the Ulman clan as Victor Ulman.

Ti West not only captures an early 80s mood but also the mood of an early 80s film. When The House of the Devil was released on DVD, Ti West also had it released on VHS in an old clamshell-style case. VHS had not had a major movie release in four years by that time. That is dedication!

People Watch: Writer and director Ti West has a cameo as favorite teacher. Assistant director Kamen Velkovsky also has a cameo as a demon.