After watching Ti West‘s breakout 2009 movie “The House Of The Devil” we ask ourselves: Has there ever been a movie where a teenage baby-sitter didn’t have LITERALLY the worst night of her life? A great watch for Halloween horror fans, The House Of The Devil (2009) doesn’t avoid these cliches, it dives into them headlong with reverence…. everything is as it should be: buxom babysitters, lunar eclipses, creepy pizza delivery drivers and mumbling mothers locked away in attics and big, brooding houses on the edge of town.
It’s 1983: hair is feathered, jeans are tight and Satanic Panic is at full swing. Our final girl Sam, pitch perfectly played by perky Jocelin Donahue, is a college student saving money for a deposit on her first apartment. Naturally, she puts up signs around the campus advertising for her baby-sitting services, and quickly receives call. It’s the spooky Mr. Ulman (played with glorious gloom by veteran character actor Tom Noonan) who’s taken all of her posters and booked her for the night of the lunar eclipse.
As is the custom of classic B-Movies (and The House Of The Devil is nothing if not a full-bore B-Movie), Sam’s gal-pal Megan (an excellent Greta Gerwig) gives her a ride to the Ulman estate, which they find way, way down at the end of a long, long road in the middle of a deep, dark forest…obviously. The Mother Ulman is upstairs in her room, Mr. Ulman explains, and that’s why he had to pull an unfortunate switcheroo on old Sam. He offers her $400 to watch the infirm Ulman Sr., whom he promises will be as quiet as a tomb…….Then, naturally, the Ulmans depart because they want to observe the full eclipse of the moon, and you can’t even see the moon so deep in the dark, dark, secluded forrest…. and you can see where this is going.
And, of course…..Sam pokes around, and Mother isn’t quite as quiet as advertised, and things in this house are, of course…a bit odd. From there Ti West ratchets up The House Of The Devil’s tension as the Ulmans return and it seems a ride home is not going to happen, before we dive into the obvious conclusion (hint, the Devil is involved), but the plot is almost secondary to the film: this is a love letter to Horror that doesn’t try to mess with a formula now almost forty years old.
Shot in 16mm, on location in a Connecticut house, in roughly two weeks with his regular production crew, the director said in an interview The House Of The Devil was inspired by “prolific and auteur directors….Kubrick, Polanski, Hitchcock, Scorsese, Friedkin, Soderbergh, Van Sant, Carpenter, Argento” and those influences are front and centre as West takes us along for the ride. A child of the 80s himself, West got his start at New York’s School of the Visual Arts studying film production and was introduced by one of his professors to low budget horror legend (and founder of Glass Eye Pix) Larry Fessenden, who became a champion of West’s short films and an influence on his “quick and dirty” style of production. Highly recommended, we’ll leave Ti West himself to explain why we love The House Of The Devil as much as we do…
I have very find memories of that time and I have a very old-fashioned sensibility. This story is ultimately a very old-fashioned horror movie story with all the classic tropes, but there’s something about them that’s presented a little bit differently, and that’s what I was interested in. I wanted to take the classic horror movie structure and work within that and just put spins on things and do my own thing stuff in that framework. That’s what was interesting to me.