Splatter Time Fun Fest 2010: The House Of The Devil (2009)

Splatter Time Fun Fest 2010 is in full swing now, and it’s time for a movie made in 2009 to pay homage to the horror movies made in the 80s!

Screenplay By: Ti West
Directed By: Ti West

Denial is a complex subject, it’s even more complex when associated with the idea of suspense. Outside of movie terms people, in general, hate to be denied that which they want. If I want a pizza (a cheese pizza with pineapple, mushroom and spinach topping plus provolone cheese in the crust and barbecue sauce in place of your typical pizza sauce to be exact) then I want a pizza and if I am denied that pizza I will become a surly individual. Maybe your desire isn’t pizza, heck it’s not mine half the time, but we are a people who crave various things and when we crave them we want them given to us right away. Denial is a terrible thing, we can deny ourselves that last cookie or someone else can take it and deny us that cookie through those means, but we certainly won’t be happy in either scenario. No matter how you slice it we hate to be denied what we want.

What does this have to do with The House Of The Devil you ask? Unlike most modern horror films, and to be honest unlike the vast majority of horror films from the ’80’s, The House Of The Devil is all about denying the audience what they want. Ti West doesn’t concern himself with giving the audience what we want. He knows that we want to see what is really going on inside of this house. He knows that we want our denouement, we want our blood, we want the suspense he is building to finally explode. But in a surprising show of craftsmanship for such a young director, West denies us that release. West himself has stated that he grew up on the films of Polanski, Hitchcock and Kubrick and I think that definitely comes through in his film making.

But, let’s get back to what denial has to do with The House Of The Devil, and more importantly why the concept of denial in a film is such an intricate matter. In life we hate denial, yet in film we often love it. If someone holds back from giving me the pizza I want then I get pissed. If a director builds suspense and holds back on releasing me from that suspense, I am enthralled. That is the stuff that makes film a wonderful medium, my favorite medium to be more concise. West is able to take an emotion that I strictly adhere to in real life and turn it on its head through his film making. Admittedly West isn’t the only director to do this, directors who understand how to use suspense are able to routinely do this, but in The House Of The Devil West surprised me with his ability to play out suspense and deny me what I want all the while enthralling me with what I have seen.

A key part, the most crucial part in fact, in laying out the suspense and feeling of denial found in The House Of The Devil is the house itself. It creeks, it cracks, it groans with footsteps, in short it is alive. West films the house from every nook and cranny possible, and by doing so, along with some excellent sound effects work, when Samantha takes a step the tension builds. When you hear a door creak you understand how lived in this house probably is. It’s a hard thing to describe, but West and his sound technicians have created a house that isn’t just a house, it is a character in its own right. They have also successfully created a 1980’s feel in the dress, the music and the cinematography, but I would question one of the main selling points of the film.

It isn’t a detriment to the film, I’m not saying that, but I don’t buy The House Of The Devil as an homage to ’80’s horror. It’s an homage to a certain subset of directors who showered in suspense on a daily basis. One can certainly see the touches of Polanski, Carpenter, Hitchcock, and Kubrick in full effect. However, the ’80’s were not a time dominated by pure suspense horror. The ’80’s were dominated by slashers that were often driven by suspense, but they were still a completely different type of horror film than The House Of The Devil. In summation, because let’s face it I lose myself when I write so I probably lost you a few paragraphs back, The House Of The Devil does hearken back to the ’80’s in many ways, but it hearkens back to a more suspenseful type of horror and not really ’80’s horror.

I may not like to be denied in real life, but The House Of The Devil knows just how to deny me in the best way possible until it’s last twenty minutes or so. It’s low budget, it flew under the radar, but it is the type of horror film that most horror fans should love. It may be a bit slow for some, I recognize that, but if a movie taking its time to build suspense doesn’t bother you then the leisurely pace of The House Of The Devil shouldn’t be a problem for you at all. I know I say this all the time, but in an era when every other horror film is concerned with showing the audience gore and torture with no meaning behind it, The House Of The Devil is a breath of fresh air. Sit back, watch, let the suspense build and be denied what you want, where else but movies could that be such a good thing?

Rating:

****

Cheers,
Bill

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10 responses to “Splatter Time Fun Fest 2010: The House Of The Devil (2009)

  1. Mark Middlemas

    This and Let the Right One In are easily my favorite horror movies since…well I don’t remember, but a long time.

  2. This is easily top 20 for me, and don’t take that the wrong way, it’s a compliment, I’ve seen more horror movies than any human ever should, I think.

    Tops for me remains Halloween, but I’m so glad I caught this one, as I stated, I loved the suspense and denial that West used throughout.

  3. I felt that ‘House of the Devil’ meandered too much during the middle portion of its story. There were moments that demonstrated very clever and arresting cinematography, like the scene in which the girl is eating pizza and the camera frame is not ‘quite’ focusing on her nor is it ‘quite’ focusing on the window that is in the background, but just enough to make the viewer pay attention to said window in the background. Those moments were very, very good, but they didn’t happen often. The first 30 and final 15 minutes are fantastic however.

    All in all, it was alright, but nothing more than that.

  4. The middle portion of the film is actually when I think the film was at its best, hmmm…

  5. mcarteratthemovies

    Hey, I reviewed this a few days after you did! I bought it on a whim at Best Buy based on the strength of a few reviews I’d read, and I was blown away. After having my sensitivity numbed by schlock, “House of the Devil” is the real deal. The tension is killer, and I love the way Ti West holds back on everything. The longer he makes us wait, the more effective the final 20 minutes are (although I, like you, prefer the middle portion).

  6. Cool beans M, I’ll make sure to get to your review in the future. I’m currently in the middle of sifting through over 9 months worth of reviews over at Aiden’s site that went into my “Is too busy with work, school, and his own blog so he can’t read what others have to say right now” folder. You’re in there too, but I have a lot to get too. ūüôā

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