Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The House of the Devil

Despite her friend's warnings, a college student takes a babysitting gig under shady circumstances because she's hard up for cash. Between the odd behavior of the family, and a shadowy figure lurking around outside, something is going on, but what?

Ti West's The House of the Devil, from 2009, has fast become one of my favorite horror movies. It's like some sort of perfect distillation of everything I love about the genre. It's focused on suspense rather than shock (but it knows how to shock when necessary). It is deliberately paced, yet the story is streamlined to its essentials. It's richly atmospheric without being distractingly stylized. It knows how to use violence effectively without relying on it to provide all the entertainment.

And, maybe most importantly, it's legitimately scary, but in a fun way. These days, if a horror movie is scary it tends to have to be disturbing or completely downbeat, or if it's fun then it's a horror/comedy. It's such a rare treat to find a movie that understands how fear and fun don't have to be mutually exclusive.

Grade: A


Shenan said...

That last line. Says it all.

Andy said...

This is definitely one of the only great horror movies to come out this last decade, but I do think the last 10 minutes is kind of weak. Up until then it's near perfect, but the sudden rapid-fire editing and rushed conclusion don't live up to such an excellent slow build-up. And SPOILERS I don't find it believable that she'd shoot herself so quickly. She's a great character, relateable, cute, and for most of the movie she reacts to everything realistically, but I find her suicide attempt jumps the gun a bit. In the span of 10 minutes she runs around and kills multiple people to save her life, but then just gives up and instantly shoots herself.

But I don't mean to rag too much, this is a great horror movie done on a low budget that has major technical chops, strong performances, and is super suspenseful for most of its runtime. And it manages to be an homage to 80's horror films and a unique horror film in it's own right. The look, costumes, set design, music is all spot-on (love the opening credits), but it also plays out like no slasher film from that time period. It's slow and uneventful and sinister, and doesn't build itself on the same 70's-80's horror movie structure that a lesser film would have copied. It gets all of the ingredients right and then unspools in a unique fashion.

And it doesn't have an opening scare/gore scene, which is a horror movie staple I absolutely hate. It takes a special skill to create unease during the opening mundane normal sequences of a horror movie without the crutch of an opening shocking scene, and this film pulls it off perfectly.