It’s October, and for me that means it’s time to look for that one really great modern horror film. To that end, I recently watch Ti West’s well-received House of the Devil.
It’s a period piece, taking place in the 1980’s, with a great title-sequence right out of that era. It’s an admirable idea to make a period piece on a low-budget, and for the most part it works. Unfortunately, it is about the only thing that works for this film.
Jocelin Donahue plays Samantha, a college student who is in need of some quick cash to secure her optimal off-campus living arrangement. That leads her to accept a slightly strange baby-sitting job from Mr. Ulman, the always creepy Tom Noonan. Her friend (Greta Gerwig) drops her off at his country home, leaving her alone with her new charge. Things are not as they seem and eventually the true nature of her employers are revealed.
If you are thinking that the plot seems really thin, then you are correct. There aren’t many more moving pieces than what I already described. The plot or characters do not bring anything new or interesting to the table. Maybe that would have been okay if there was some style to the proceedings, but that is also sorely lacking.
The film is severely padded. Scenes are too long, or not needed at all. Shots constantly overstay their welcome by a second or two. There just isn’t enough plot to fill up the runtime. Maybe Ti West was trying to build atmosphere but there wasn’t much to be had with what he was giving the audience.
Unfortunately, this is poor film-making. The plot is razor-thin. The direction and editing are trying to mask that fact, but instead of distracting us, they just highlight what is missing. This is the third film from Ti West (The Innkeepers, Trigger Man) that I have felt this way about. The one-note plot ideas are just not enough to make a film with, and House of the Devil is no exception.