Recently, I've become aware that certain films are able to transcend the medium by being completely self-assured in their atmospheres…
The House of the Devil
Talk on the phone. Finish your homework. Watch TV. Die.
In the 1980s, 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; they plan to use her in a satanic ritual.
Part of Hoop-Tober
“This one night changes everything for me.”
In the foyer, near the base of the grand staircase, sits a harpsichord.
Not a piano. Not even an organ. A harpsichord.
The house is already impressively creepy. So expansive yet so enclosed, so dark. Stairwells and passageways and so many rooms, all suitable for sneaking and hiding and misdirection. Everything about it is subtly unnerving—a grandparents’ home full of ugly wallpaper and linoleum and bric-a-brac, but with a sense that the grandson might be Damien. It’s reminiscent of the Victorian Bates manse in Psycho, itself inspired Edward Hopper’s The House by the Railroad. It is less a house than an imposition on good mental health. But it’s just a…
Part of Lise and Jonnie’s Horror-o-thon 2014
Well that was a great kick-off to this year’s Horror-o-thon! Not knowing anything going in, I was convinced by the opening scenes that this was a late 70’s / early 80’s haunted house horrorer; that is until the very late 70’s / early 80’s opening credits rolled … oooh, it has Mary Waronov! Wait, what? How old is Gretta Gerwig?
Ti West’s House of the Devil is neither homage nor send-up, it’s something completely sincere. While I’m the farthest thing from a horror genre aficionado, I’ve had enough exposure to the classics from that era to see that this rings true. It reminded me of a small Spanish/Danish comedy from 2003, Torremolino '73…
A person's vision is best portrayed the fewer the hands involved. I think that is what has worked best for Ti West's House of the Devil and in bringing it to life so successfully. Not only writing and directing, the fact he edited the film as well really kept his vision true and in tact.
The tone and pacing, while slow to build is used perfectly, adding an eerie and unsettling calm which eventually snowballs into intense and terrifying chaos.
Aside from Ti West's writing, directing, editing, cinematography, POV shots and all the technical aspects, his attention to detail was out of this world. There have been plenty of fantastic period-piece horror films but to have a throw back film,…
I love second viewings of films so much.
I have had discussions with the occasional person who flat out refuses to revisit films, saying they could never sit through something again when they already know what happens, and I am the guy on the polar opposite end of the spectrum in this regard. Not only can I watch the same work again and again as long as it tickles my entertainment bone (no, not that, get your mind out of the gutter pervert), but I actually typically prefer the second go round over the first.
When I first screen a film, I want to maintain a tight focus on the plot and do my best to follow the story beats…
Steeped in artifice and flimsy storytelling, Ti West's "The House of the Devil" seems to have caught the eye of horror fans hungry for a throwback to the heady and feather-haired days of 1980s thrillers. To be sure, the film is such a throwback as its design, pace, and sets all revel in the sensibilities of that past decade. Strip those touches away, however, and the film rates only as a run-of-the-mill horror film, relying too much on generating atmosphere and too little on building a satisfying narrative.
Taking place in an era wear the Fixx could be listened to on foam-padded Walkman headphones, the film revolves around Jocelin Donahue's Samantha, a college co-ed in need of a job. Finding…
Ti West's direction + spooky and grainy cinematography + methodical and slowly tightening tension + fantastic performances by Jocelin Donahue and Tom Noonan + brilliant references to the 1980s and satanic chillers + one of the greatest climaxes of all time + an eventual release of primal rage and desolation + a slightly-empty house = one of the finest horror films to be released in the 21st century.
Mrs Ulman, are you okay?
Easily the best late-70s/early-80s horror film not made in the 70s or 80s.
The look of the film is perfection. Some movies try to pull this off, but fail horrendously. Ti West is a man you know has studied his influences thoroughly. It's not just the wardrobe or the sets or props or the music, but it's the more subtle touches, like the zooms and film grain and color scheme, shooting and editing style. And it gives the film such a uniquely fresh yet retro feel that I have never seen pulled off this well before.
Another throwback trait is the film's pace, which is decidedly leisurely. The story takes its time instead of hitting you over the head with…
If horror classics Rosemary's Baby and Halloween had a mediocre kid, it would be this film... the last 30 minutes of this movie will stick with me forever
Like West's The Innkeepers, House of the Devil suffers from execution being superior to story. However it's hard not to be won over by his attention to detail and how well shot and edited the whole film is. I just wish he would add something new in terms of narrative. The problem with making stuff so heavily influenced, is that you've seen it all before.
I'd really like to see how he'd get on adapting someone else's material.
Let us rewind the clocks back to the year 1982, with this satanic tale The House of the Devil, written and directed by Ti West. Hold on a second, did I say 1982? The House of the Devil was actually released in 2009, but the film truly has captured everything a true 80's horror film would have. Die-hard horror fans would agree that it feels like an old lost film just newly discovered from a dusty collection of forgotten reels.
A beautiful and desperate sophomore college student, Samantha Hughes is in need of quick cash and takes up a peculiar babysitting job that just so happens to fall on the night of a full lunar eclipse. As the night passes…
This one came highly recommended, and it did not disappoint. Many reviewers thought it is slow and boring. I disagree. West is very disciplined, with the tension building slowly to the final 20 minutes. Very 80s retro feel. Good performances and solid plot.
You're Next was one of the biggest surprises I have experienced in my year of film watching. When I heard the director of another, Carpenter influenced movie played a role in the movie, I knew I had to check it out at some point. Ti West's House of the Devil is good horror mystery that makes great use of its slow pace.
Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue) is college student struggling to bring in money. She accepts a babysitting job at a strange, isolated house. The owners are strange and inform her that she will be watching over the wife's mother, not their child. This is the least bizarre event of the night as Samantha examines the house and discovers the…
For all the period trappings and drawn-out "suspense", it feels more like a clinical film school exercise than an actual film, a feeling borne out by the damp fizzle of a climax. Old pro Tom Noonan has fun though.
Masterfully paced and truly unnerving.
The pros and cons remain the same upon a second viewing five years later. The late 70's-early 80's aesthetic painted on the first 3/4 of the movie is intriguing and quite fun to watch, and the supporting work from Tom Noonan and Greta Gerwig fits nice and snug in the overall atmosphere that Ti West is looking at creating.
The filmmakers spent a lot of time focusing on quiet suspense that calls for mostly non-gore related horror, that is until they decide to go off the rails in the final 15 minutes in favor of caving in to the standard modern horror gratuity of violence and blood. It's a movie that will always be divided at the 50/50 line of enjoyment and hatred for me. Oh well. It could be worse.
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- Spring Breakers
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- Irma Vep
- Miami Blues
- Babe: Pig in the City
For five years, film critic Scott Tobias compiled "The New Cult Canon" in a regular column for The A.V. Club…
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Friends often ask me to recommend indie horror films on Netflix Instant. (American Netflix, sorry!) Now I can just send…