Starring: Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Greta Gerwig, Dee Wallace
Directed by: Ti West
Running Time: 95 minutes
In 1980, Samantha is a college student who's desperate to move off campus due to having a bad roommate. She's found the perfect apartment, but she doesn't have quite enough money to put down a deposit. Thankfully, the landlady is willing to give her a few extra days to come up with the $300 needed. She answers an ad for a babysitting job to try to earn the money she needs. Of course, the potential employers are strange people in a big house. To make it more interesting, it's the night of a lunar eclipse.
Samantha's friend, Megan, agrees to drive her to the house and pick her up after the babysitting gig is over. Our heroine learns that she'll be taking care of the homeowner's elderly mother instead of a child. If she agrees to do it, they'll pay her double the money. This should be a super easy job because Mother really likes her privacy! All Samantha will have to do is sit around and wait for a few hours. What can it hurt? It's easy money.
There's a lot of nostalgia in House of the Devil. Despite being filmed in 2009, the film looks and sounds very much like the horror of the 1970s and '80s. This is achieved by use of props, costume design and even the cinematography. I'm fairly sure this was filmed using 16mm as well. It's easy to assume that writer/director Ti West is a big fan of Tobe Hooper and other iconic directors of that era. The film even begins with text claiming that the plot is based on true events much like Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Overall, the problems for me come in where the plot is concerned. The film is very heavy on style and thin on plot. Samantha prances around the house with hardly anything happening in the first hour. There's nothing wrong with a slow paced plot. However, there has to be some exposition to carry the narrative along. Don't get me wrong. I like movies where the horror is mostly seen off screen.Those things that go bump in the night fuel more nightmares when my imagination is left to fill in the blanks.
When events do start happening in the last twenty minutes, it causes the entire ending to feel very rushed. The plot should have been building to this moment. Where were the indicators that something more was amiss? Are we supposed to fill in these blanks on our own? The final scene in particular felt as if it was merely tacked on with the hopes of landing a chance at a sequel. Any extra points I would have given for direction or style have been taken back due to the rushed plot.