The House of the Devil - Movie Review

The House of the Devil
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It's a real shame there aren't more horror movies like The House of the Devil, although, if you were to find some, I suppose you would find them hiding in the 80's. It seems only right that this particular film is executed in that style. You won't find anything in the way of special effects apart from the occasional surprise in the way of exploding makeup, and when that makeup turns up the story jumps to a whole new level. What we have here is a film that really requires very little in the way of a budget. What we're most afraid of it what's left hidden behind closed doors, and this isn't the kind of instance in which one would want to be barging in to find out what's lurking in the darkness. This is a film about a reasonable college student who knows better than to disturb the person they are hired to cared for, for better or for worse. In this case, much worse.

Samantha is desperate to make the measly deposit on her first apartment, and so she replies on a whim to the first baby sitting position she notices. Luckily for her, Samantha's best friend has already taken the liberty of taking down the rest of the flyers hanging around campus to dissuade any other potential rivals, but there's a distinct feeling that it wouldn't make much of a difference anyway. Something about the whole proposition is simply off kilter. Maybe it's the fact that she isn't watching over a baby at all, but over an elderly woman who seems locked away in her own room on the second floor of a creepy mansion, on the night of a lunar eclipse no less. Granted, I would take four hundred bucks for the job, wouldn't you?

It's easy to make a horror film with dumb characters, but what's hard (and far more terrifying) is making a horror film with characters who seem perfectly reasonable. Would I do anything different in Samantha's position? I'm really not sure. Free pizza sounds pretty good to me, even if the old man hiring me for the job mentions it one too many times. Only once, I think, is the viewer granted a glance at what lurks behind the walls of this haunted mansion, but even then it's too far to turn back. The film keeps a slow but steady pace up until it's final conclusion, but people are cautious, and usually for good reasons. I might say that the beginning feels a bit sluggish, but having seen so many other 80's horror films, it actually is pretty spot on. Is that a good thing? Have horror films of today been benefitted by a shorter attention span? Maybe, but a sense of tension can never find a suitable replacement. Just wait a while until the film takes a short detour for a quick cigarette break in a cemetery. This is a horror film that wants to acquaint you to a normal world in which terrible things can happen. And it works.

Spoilers might follow, but I have to say the ending left me feeling a bit cheated inside. Maybe I found myself connecting to Samantha. Or maybe I've seen scary movies like Rosemary's Baby one too many times (and I've only seen it twice). Then again, I suppose that's just how it is with classic scary movies. Jason escapes, Jaws has babies, Alien has other Aliens, all in all the horror continues to see another sequel. This one probably won't get one, but it doesn't need to. I don't want it to. I'm scared enough as it is.
See it.

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