Movie #82 2022: The House of the Devil (2009)

I know what you’re thinking: the images used in this review don’t exactly scream 2009. And you’d be right – that is actually a huge compliment. If you’re also thinking ‘that looks more like some 70s/80s horror movie?’ then I guess we’d better say bravo to Ti West, who has absolutely hit the nail on the head because that’s without doubt what he was going for.

House of the Devil has been on my Halloween watchlist for quite some time now, way before X was even conceived of. In fact, I wasn’t even aware that this was a Ti West movie until my wife pointed it out, but after watching, it’s so clear now that West has a specific, nuanced style about his work that’s something to admire. In this one, the long and short of it involves a 1980s college student who is house-sitting for the evening. After a while though, it becomes apparent that her hosts have a terrifying secret that is far from innocent.

What I’m really saying is, Ti West really is one of the true great modern horror directors, isn’t he? Alongside heavyweights like Jordan Peele and Ari Aster, it’s good to see he’s having a good few years of success. 

Like X (which you may remember me reviewing a couple of days ago), West proves once again that he’s a dab hand at creating tone and feel through his visual choices. Shooting The House of the Devil on 16mm was the best decision he made here, with everything from the grainy aesthetic to the bold, bright yellow title credits lovingly and clearly paying homage to the likes of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist. He simply does an excellent job at making this movie feel like an 80s movie and it’s wonderful to see.

Unfortunately, this one takes slightly too long to get to the pay off. Though West is evidently a master of the slow burn (again similar to Rosemary’s Baby in that regard), there was just so little going on for most of this movie. Of course this is personal preference, but I like my satanic cult horror to have a little more oomph. However, that’s not to say there’s no substance to the slow first half, as a lot of it links directly into the second. 

Aside from the excellent visuals, I can’t say this is Ti West’s best work. The leading actress is good, but nowhere near Mia Goth, and the same can be said for the supporting cast, although Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov are perfectly cast in their creepy, off-putting roles. Though a decent sense of tension is built, I found myself bored more than once, sadly. 

This is a movie that should be shown in technical filmmaking classes across the world, without a doubt. But as a piece of entertainment? It’s really quite average, right down to its short-lived conclusion.

House of the Devil is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Video in the UK.

TQR Category Ratings:

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