I’ll tell you this much, Mr. Miller enjoyed the chance to once again watch a PYT prancing around in clinging high waist jeans, a plaid blouse and rockin’ a feathered Farrah hair-do. It brought me back to my days (the 70s, that is).
I was hoping to catch a glimpse of some leg warmers and a pair of lady workboots, too, but no luck this time.
Can't be too picky...
80s fashion isn’t the only retro-action going on in Dark Sky’s much anticipated THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL. Writer/director Ti West (previous of the THE ROOST) not only modeled his film after the pre-HALLOWEEN/FRIDAY THE 13TH era of 70s horror, but he also physically placed the story in the early 1980s, before the modern age of communications – you know, back when you used to have to let the phone ring a dozen times before anyone would answer. No cell phones, no Internet, no texts messaging, and barely even an answering machine could be had. What’s a girl to do when she’s stranded in a creepy old house out in the middle of nowhere? Why, snoop around, from room to room, until you find trouble!
After committing to renting an apartment she can’t afford, Samantha (played by relative newcomer Jocelin Donahue) finds a babysitting job posted on a job board outside her dorm. When she arrives at the creepy old house on the outskirts of town, she questions her good luck. Her paranoia is fueled once she meets the people inside: the insanely tall and quiet Mr. Ulman (played by the insanely tall and quiet Tom Noonan – the original Hannibal Lector from MANHUNTER), and his wife (cult icon Mary Waronov). It isn’t enough that they’ve lured Samantha out there under false pretenses – it’s not a baby she’s being asked to sit for, but an elderly mother locked away upstairs – or that the well-weathered Mrs. Ulman tries to seduce her, but there have been reports on the radio of weird goings on around the area. But none of that is cause for concern after Samantha is offered a couple hundred bucks for the job. Bad idea!
Up to this point West keeps the pacing admirably old school. He expresses his appreciation for Polanski’s genre films, and he’s attempted to model his own after ROSEMARY’S BABY and REPULSION. But the pacing of those tap more into the inner turmoil of the characters, whereas HOUSE rather adeptly reflects the pacing of many of the other suspense flicks from the era. Films like PLAY MISTY FOR ME , or TV movies like BAD RONALD and THE SCREAMING WOMAN that would offset the approaching nastiness by grounding the first act in real world minutia, instead of pouring on the gloomy foreshadowing .
It gets fairly tedious in the middle act. The characters, though well played, never develop beyond their archetypes, and, let’s face it, the fear of murderous cults and Satanic slayings may have added to the audiences unease back in the days of the Manson Family and Son of Sam, but it doesn’t really work up much but nostalgic spookiness for todays audience. Fear not horror fans (and gore fans, you get the payoff you deserve in thecrazy, bloody climax.
It’s a treat to see a film that isn’t afraid to be just plain creepy. There’s none of the not-so-clever twists or any over analysis of stuff that doesn’t need analyzing. THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL is great late-night viewing, just like you used to enjoy.
And check out the great 70s style zooms and freeze frames in the HOUSE trailer! This flick is sure to be a treat for all fans of retro horror.