The House of the Devil ★★★★

Ti West’s House of the Devil is a surprisingly accomplished retro horror gem ... Accomplished in that it uses forcing a simple question on its viewers "what in the hell is waiting for that girl in this house?" to roll itself up into a tight-tense creepy ball and retro in that it is A) set in the early 80s and is B) actually, you know, tense and creepy enough to elicit real live gasps and whispers of "god damnit Sam, run!" from a theater audience as opposed to being meta or simply gory. What West has it seems is a real gift for weaving an engrossing realism into blatant horror setups and casting then building a sympathetic attachment to his lead. He’s actually able to drop genre stalwart cameos into the film that suck you in rather than pull you out of the narrative. So when you meet a Dee Wallace or a Tom Noonan you react as if they’re danger signs the nice young woman who clearly needs to move out of the dorms should heed, turn and walk away from rather than as if the movie had just winked at you. Yes, the film’s ending could probably use a re-edit to take advantage of the sensory dislocation and labyrinthine distances it builds up early on, but it’s startlingly effective nevertheless and ... actually it'd be better if I didn't say more and you just saw House of the Devil for yourself.