Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bald Mountain Night 13: The House of the Devil

Each day in October, intrepid blogger Alex Boivin will watch a horror movie. These movies are all new to him and are part of his month-long effort to fill in his gaps in the horror canon. If he doesn't die from fright, you just might get to read about about his exploits in cinema during the Halloween season. 

Any serious student of horror cinema will tell you that the 2000's have seen a significant dearth of real decent scary movies. Nowadays, horror movies are more about cheap jump scares, pornographic gore, and shitty remakes than they care concerned with creating something memorable and terrifying. Audiences are merely given an incentive to fill seats in a theater and waste a couple hours being "scared". The 1980's were something of a golden age for horror, and those are the days last year's The House of the Devil harkens back to.

Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) is a college student in a bind: she's found a house to rent to get away from her crappy roommate and finally have some independence, but she's short on cash. Finding a sketchy ad requesting a babysitter, she responds only to find the creepy Ulman family and their creepy Victorian house on the edge of town, across the street from a graveyard. Discovering that there is no child to babysit and the real job entails watching the unseen grandmother of the family, a desperate Samantha accepts. Alone in the house at night, a feeling of dread and evil creeps over her, and soon she discovers who really owns this house...(you can guess from the title)

Shot in the style and using the techniques (16mm! Camera zooms! VHS!) of 70's and 80's horror movies, House of the Devil reminds its viewers of a time when scary movies were scary and when genuine chills surpassed excess and irony.

Most of the film's ninety minute runtime are spent merely focusing on Samantha's night and routine in the house. Every board creak and every gust of wind is terrifying. Despite some staccatos of violence perpetrated to characters outside the house, the movie doesn't become a full on scare-fest until its final fifteen minutes. Even though it opens with a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Satanism scare of the 1980's and how the story is "based on actual events", it is generally played straight which makes is scarier.

But was it scary? Don't watch this movie while home alone, especially if you're housesitting.

Final Verdict: 64 Congos