Monday, February 8, 2010

The House of the Devil (2009)

Excellent, deliberately-paced horror film about a shady babysitting job in the middle of the woods. Trailers give away too much of the plot, which involves a young female college student taking the mysterious job, despite her friend's insistence, to pay her rent. The film is, indeed, a horror film, but the suspense and tension are more ample than the gore; director Ti West knows that the knowledge of what could happen, or what might be happening, is far more terrifying than anything you actually see happen. There are long sequences where seemingly nothing of consequence happens, save for false starts and misconceptions. These sequences are made extremely tense through a deft professional touch by West, who I expect will never top this ambitious, personal piece. The acting is far superior to normal low-budget genre fare; special props must be given to The Reaper himself, Tom Noonan, who, even after nearly 30 years in horror films, can still, unlike, say, Udo Kier, register as mysterious and interesting. The set of the house is terrifying in its normality; we are aware of every piece of the frame that is out of place, and that attention to detail is unfortunately atypical of modern horror filmmakers. If I have one complaint, it is that West, as the editor, shows his cards a little too early, and makes several reveals obvious to us before our protagonist. But she catches up quickly, and the film pays off the suspense quite satisfactorily.

Highly Recommended to fans of '80s horror (soundtrack includes InXS and The Greg Kihn Band), or well-made suspense films; this has more in common with Hitchcock than one would infer from the title.

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