Saturday, February 14, 2015

Film Review: House of the Devil

Looking for an anti-Valentine's day film last night this horror film was picked due to its good reviews and its director, Ti West, being viewed by many as a up and coming director to watch.

Certainly the film is not your traditional modern horror film.  There's no torture-porn, a relatively minimal amount of blood and gore, no "found footage", no "paranormal activities", etc.  It was stated from the get go to be a homage to 70's and 80's horror films and it definitely looks and feels like it.  The clothes, cars, hair, Sony Walkman, grainy film stock, music, corded telephones, payphones, etc. all give the appearance of events and filming that took place in the late 70's or 80's.  I had to go and check the release date of House of the Devil a number of times to ensure that it was made just a few years ago...there is nothing really here to give away that it wasn't made some 30-40 years ago.

The pacing of the film is also decidedly un-modern.  The edits are far apart and virtually NOTHING happens in the first 45 minutes of the film which merely sets up your standard horror trope--a young girl is hired as a babysitter for a baby that doesn't exist in a big scary house in the deep woods by a very weird couple on the night of a lunar eclipse.  If that doesn't give you an idea of where this story is going you haven't been paying much attention.

While the story is typical it is still well put together and once you are in the major set piece of the film (the house), Ti West does an excellent job or ratcheting up the tension.  Its here that the film shines with lots of odd camera angle shots and still frames where the female lead goes in and out of the shot and your SURE something bad is going to befall her--but doesn't.  When things begin to go badly for our heroine the tension West has been building over the last hour or so is released and it returns to some fairly typical "girl covered with blood being chased through a scary house by a tall creepy guy" action.  The film ends with what I guess is supposed to be a "twist" or "surprise" much like say Nightmare on Elm Street or the like but really it doesn't fit with the events of the story and seems just tacked on so that the viewer has something to wonder about after turning the film off.

There are certainly elements here that deserve watching and Ti West's development as a director has potential--particularly since he is branching out into other genres with a Western (always a favorite style of mine) with Ethan Hawke (himself a recent star of a number of horror films), John Travolta and Taissa Farmiga (younger sister of Vera Farmiga) watch" but any stretch of the imagination.

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