It is nice to see a director come along and tip the hat to a genre, while infusing it with a healthy dose of originality.
Well, if that is the case then horror fans, fans of the 1980s, fans of 1980s horror movies, and fans of filmmakers like Roman Polanski, Lucio Fulci and the like are going to be quite excited to know that while Paranormal Activity blazes up the box office (I have yet to see the film so I can't comment on it), the best horror movie in the past 5 to 10 years hasn't even come out yet. No, that movie will grace theaters on October 30 of this year. It will probably come out somewhat quietly. The company releasing it, Magnet, isn't the biggest and if this movie is lucky, it will have a decent 2 week run before it comes to DVD in a few months. At that point it will no doubt be discovered by someone who says, "When did this movie come out?" or "Did this movie ever come out?"
The film is The House of the Devil.
Directed, written and edited by Ti West, this movie, which clocks in at 93 minutes, seems like some lost artifact from the 1980s. From its cover (which seems to recall the original one sheets of The Howling and other such posters from that time) to the subject matter of the film itself, to the soundtrack, this movie is both an homage and an expansion of the horror genre. The story is simple:
In the late 1980s, college student Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue) takes a strange babysitting job that coincides with a full lunar eclipse. She slowly realizes her clients harbor a terrifying secret; they plan to use her in a satanic ritual.
Within the telling of this tale, there is a lot of build up, a lot of pedestrian moments and a lot of time spent watching Samantha do her thing on the screen. She is aided by the simplistic performances from Tom Noonan, Dee Wallace and other members of the cast. This movie has a foreboding tone from the opening scene of Samantha renting a house. We know that something is going to happen we just don't know what or when. As the movie plays out, it becomes apparent that our character has painted herself into a corner yet we never fully give up the notion that she can survive whatever it is that is going to happen. When the denouement finally comes it isn't groundbreaking, yet it's satisfying because everything about it is true to the nature of the film.
Ti West has gotten so much right right with The House of the Devil. In making a movie that is an homage to the 1980s, as well as looks like it could have been one of throwaway films from that time, the director has struck an interesting balance that we don't see in many modern horror films. This movie doesn't feel familiar. Therefore it takes away our ability to have contempt for his reverence for the past. In this day and age when A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and so many other monumental franchises are being McMovied for a younger audience (who may or may not even want them that way), it is nice to see a director come along and tip the hat to a genre, while infusing it with a healthy dose of originality.