Halloween Horror Movie Month: The House of the Devil (2009)

Now when I’m looking to babysit, I know to cross Satan worshipers off the list.

A cash-strapped college student named Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) takes a babysitting job during a full lunar eclipse and ends up fighting for her life. She soon discovers that her employers, Tom (Tom Noonan) and Mary (Mary Woronov) Ulman, are hiding a wicked, sick and twisted secret.

Giving the fact that it’s October and I’ve been doing this little “Horror Movie Month” thingy, I finally get the chance to actually look at a lot of horror films that I wouldn’t normally look at if it were say December of November. So when peeps started telling me that I needed to check this flick out for this month, I did not hesitate once.

Writer/director Ti West does a great job here with this 80’s look-alike because he’s more about the suspense of the horror film rather than the numerous jump-scares we always get nowadays. It’s less about scaring you and more about keeping you scared that something scary is about to happen soon. The first hour or so is all about creating the tension for this film with basically Samantha just walking around the house, looking at the rooms, listening and dancing to The Fixx, and watching some really crappy TV. This, to many people may sound really boring, but I can promise you, it’s probably the most tense I’ve been in a horror film for a long time. Never would I have thought

However, as subtle as the first hour was, the last 30 minutes of the film kind of delves into more straight-up in-your-face horror. To me, I still was very freaked out by everything that happened in these last 30 minutes because you actually get to see all of the devil-work but since the first hour is all about what you don’t see and what you imagine, this came off as a bit of a disappointment. But it’s still really creepy and even though I knew where it was all going, it still worked which is something I can’t say for half of the horror crap that comes out nowadays.

Another minor problem I had with this film was how a gun came into play with this film. A gun is not really a weapon you see used in a horror film, let alone a killing device like it’s used here because it comes into place the first time and is extremely destructive, but the next time it’s used, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was actually a BB-gun after all. This wasn’t a problem that took me away from the film as a whole, but the way its used and how differently its effects are shown, raised a little bit of eye-brows for yours truly.

If you are a fan though of Freddy, Jason, or any other of those other crazy son-of-a-bitches from the 80’s, then this is definitely the horror film for you. Right from the opening credits, I knew I was in for an 80’s horror film tribute and instead of just being a total mirror-copy of that style without any originality I actually found myself wondering why more horror films can’t be like this nowadays. The certain camera angles, lighting effects, and synthesizer-powered score that this film uses is in great effect and made me feel like I was actually watching a Grindhouse flick from those days that I would go to see on a boring Saturday night.

Earlier in the week, I heard that a little-known Indie film-maker was looking to make a $500 remake of the horror classic, ‘Halloween‘. This came as a total surprise to me because I felt that ever since Rob Zombie touched that franchise, it was practically dead. It also had me thinking that maybe some directors out there could possibly breath some new-life into old horror films, rather than just being a carbon-copy placed in the 21st century. Ti West is one of those guys who bring some new game to these old-school films but instead he gets stuck with crap like ‘Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever’ but I still have faith that he could just possibly do something cool and new in the future.

Jocelin Donahue plays Samantha, who does a good job at being pretty but also scared. It also helps that Samantha is incredibly smart and actually makes a lot of good decisions as the whole film goes which isn’t a lot we could say for many of the other teens we see in any horror film in today’s world. It also helps that she looks like Ally Sheedy, another 80’s film legend. Greta Gerwig is also pretty good as her bestie; Tom Noonan is brilliant as this insanely creepy and strange as the mysterious as Mr. Ullman; and Mary Woronov is equally as weird as her husband. The cast is all pretty good but it’s really West who is the star and finds away to take over the spot-light every time.

Consensus: With the grainy throw-back look to the horror films of the 80’s, Ti West makes The House of the Devil a very tense and creepy flick that may take awhile to get where it has to go, but it’s worth it in the end.



  1. Great review! I really liked this movie for its retro feel and style. Very refreshing. It’s not perfect, granted but for tension and doing a horror movie they way they used to be done – it worked for me.

  2. Wow, this is in-depth! You’ve convinced me to check it out; I’m crazy about horror. Probably going to see the latest Paranormal Activity on opening night šŸ™‚

  3. Good review. I agree the end is kind of a let down and just can’t live up to all the suspense. The one place I’d disagree is that fans of Freddy and Jason and Michael Meyers would like this film. I actually think they’d hate it. While it has that 80’s feel it doesn’t actually have anything “happening” and lacks the mindless stupidity (and sometimes fun) of a Friday the 13th movie (past maybe the first one).

    • I see what you’re saying. I was thinking more about the feel rather than what is actually happening but I can totally see what you’re saying. Not too much happens here and that may piss some peeps off. Thanks yo!

  4. Good review! I really dug this flick. I agree with your point that the first hour just sets up the tension. The cast is great and the throwback feel is even greater.

    Tom Noonan was great and I enjoyed seeing Dee Wallace in the film.

  5. I’ve been meaning to see this one for a while. From the assorted clips I’ve seen, it looks chilling. This review pushed me over the edge. It’s now in my cross-hair.

  6. This movie was good. Really pretty good.

    But the rewatchability has to be nil. Knowing now WHEN stuff will finally happen, I’d be robbed of that feeling of tension that carries the majority of the movie when frankly… nothing happens. I mean, the first time through, it was great. “What’s gonna happen? What’s gonna happen? What’s gonna happen?” Now that that’s gone though, there’s pretty much nothing left… to me.

    Good write up, and one thing you’re definitely right about is for whatever reason, guns arent that scary in movies. I wonder why that is? I mean, you should be pretty scared of them if youre rational, right? LOL

  7. Even for a B movie this was total Turkey, the director tried too hard to make a hammer type film [way before your time my young friend] only the wonderful B movie actress Mary Woronov saved this film from a minus number rating for me, good review though mate

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