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John Ary's Aint It Scary Reviews #11 Of 31!! THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL!!

Published at: Oct. 11, 2012, 9:11 a.m. CST by John Ary



John Ary here with another installment of Ain’t It Scary Reviews.  Today we spend the night with a babysitter who takes job that seems too good to be true from a very tall creepy guy.


The House of the Devil is so simple and elegant.  This chiller takes us back to the 80’s, when thrillers were shot on 16 millimeter, babysitters were constantly in danger and horror films were made to be scary.  
 

We meet a college student needing to raise 300 bucks by Monday to pay rent.  When she goes to a babysitting job at a big house in the middle of nowhere on a spooky night, things don’t seem right... but she needs the money.  Director Ti West spends the first 2 acts setting up the atmosphere, the tension, and the anticipation.  It’s unsettling and eerie.  We follow the girl as she explores the house, finding small clues that add-up to a startling realization.  So little happens, but when we get to the big reveal in the third act, the audience has been primed for its impact.  

The devil is in the details with this one.  Each frame is a joy to look at.  Whether it’s the retro-ness of a college dorm room from the 80’s or the eerie interior of the creepy house or the feathered hair of our main character,  West has a gift for building a cinematic world that feels like it’s been plucked out of time.  Also, there are only a handful of characters and locations.  By the end, each character has had time to disclose their motivations.  We understand what makes them tick.  This makes the climax even more compelling as the babysitter must fight her way out of the house.  Also, we’ve spent so much time exploring the home with the babysitter, we understand the layout.  When she’s running around, drenched in blood, we understand exactly where she’s running too and we’re running with her.

This doesn’t feel like a straight-up homage to the 80’s.  Rather, West is mining bits from that era (babysitters in peril, satanic cults, potentially haunted houses) and using them to tell his own unique story.  There is some blood and violence, but it’s used more as an exclamation mark than a way to drive the plot or get cheap thrills.  This is not Friday the 13th.  No.  It feels more like Hitchcock.  We casually learn about our protagonist as she slowly comes to understand the frightening details of their situation.

The only problem I had with the film (even though its only a very slight problem) is the finale.  It would be hard for any ending to live up to the first two-thirds of this movie.  Your mind is given too much time to write your own horrible, disgusting, chilling ending.  The final act is just fine, and it has a nice twist, but I doubt it will rival what you come up with in your head as our heroine slowly investigates the house.

The House of the Devil is currently streaming on Netflix.  It’s also available on Blu-ray here.

Check back in tomorrow for another Ain’t It Scary Review as Vincent Price attempts to resurrect his wife from the dead while going to great lengths to kill a group of archeologists in the most complicated ways as possible.

 

Here’s a look back at a few of the Ain’t It Scary Review installments that you might have missed:

The Ground Rules to the Project
#1 Son of Frankenstein
#2 Scream, Blacula, Scream!
#3 Black Sabbath
#4 Maniac
#5 Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
#6 Invisible Invaders
#7 The Mummy’s Curse
#8 Lord of Illusions
#9 Night of the Demons
#10 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

 

For more video news, reviews and interviews subscribe to the AICN Youtube channel and follow me on Twitter.

 



Readers Talkback

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  • Oct. 11, 2012, 9:17 a.m. CST

    Dr. Phibes Tomorrow

    by mr.underwater

    Very awesome movie

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 9:17 a.m. CST

    Loved it.

    by Rob

    The ending was a bit of a let down for me too but what West did was extremely impressive. Love the 80s throwback. And West's other film THE INNKEEPERS just went up on Netflix Instant as well.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 9:17 a.m. CST

    I rememeber this

    by Daniel OKeeffe

    There's a few films out there that i discovered through looking through unmarked VHS tapes that my parents had recorded on. Im sure this was one of them.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 9:19 a.m. CST

    Great film but, ha, tag line on that poster is horrible

    by FreeBeer

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 9:28 a.m. CST

    the_dok

    by dancetothebeatofthelivingdead

    I'm sure u fifnt discover it that way. The movie came out 2 years ago. But that's how good of a job West did recreating that vibe, because I have a friend who insists that he saw this 10-15 years ago too.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 9:52 a.m. CST

    I hate these "hommage movies".

    by DerLanghaarige

    Either get a time machine or make movies for today! You think today's movies suck? THEN CHANGE THAT!!! You have enough talent to copy a movie that was shot decades ago, so I'm sure you can come up with something fresh too. I hope. Thank you Tarantino, for raising a whole generation of filmmakers on trying to ape the (often unintentional cheesy) style of yesterday. (That said, I got NOTHING against REAL movies from previous decades. Doesn't matter if they are from the 80's or 40's. Just don't force some fake stuff down my throat.)

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 10:07 a.m. CST

    Cute movie

    by CuervoJones

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 10:12 a.m. CST

    no

    by mrgray

    I'm so goddam tired of the love this piece of shit gets in the horror community. Stop it with the Hitchcock comparisons. They aren't apt. Hitch would build tension and then PAY THAT SHIT OFF. House of the Devil builds. To nothing. And builds. To nothing. It does it so often that by the second act there's nothing to feel tense about! The setup has a certain amount of creep to it, especially given the casting, but for most of the movie it's this babysitter walking around doing NOTHING while around her NOTHING happens. At one point a pizza man is killed. Okay, something! Oh, but then that guy walks off and..... right, NOTHING!!!! He doesn't show up in any of the windows. We don't go outside for "stalker-cam". She doesn't suspect anything is wrong. N O T H I N G H A P P E N S. The only reason there's any continued tension is because the movie is titled "House of the Devil" and we know it's a horror movie. If someone was given this DVD without any context whatsoever, they'd be as bored to tears as I was. And don't even get me started on that cheap, shitty, out of NOWHERE bullshit ending. Ridiculous. The more love this thing gets, the more I shake my head in dismay at my fellow horror fan. Between the boring nothingness of this and the boring nihilistic torture of "extreme" shit like Human Centipede or Serbian Film etc. I feel deeply saddened for the genre.

  • and the Innkeepers was such absolute shit. That movie looked like it was gonna be awesome, but was boring as sin. ***Can someone remind me what happens at the end of House of the devil? I recall a bunch of people in cult cloaks and an attic, but its been too long to remember.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 11:22 a.m. CST

    Jocelin Donahue, the actress in this, reminds me...

    by VadersCrotchDoor

    ... of a young Margot Kidder. Or Karen Allen.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 11:27 a.m. CST

    @mrgray

    by Ryusei

    Agree wholeheartedly. This movie was boring and is highly overrated. I just don't understand the love it receives. The only scary part, which was really more startling than scary, was when the friend got shot in head.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 12:12 p.m. CST

    @mrgray

    by mrm1138

    I think I liked it slightly more than you, but I pretty much agree. I mentioned yesterday in the Talkback for The Kidd's review of V/H/S that after seeing Ti West's segment for that film, as well as House of the Devil and The Inkeepers, I've come to the conclusion that West has mistaken the depiction of long stretches of nothing happening with suspense. As you said, the Hitchcock comparison is inappropriate. Hitchcock pointed to the idea of two people having breakfast at a table under which is a bomb--if the audience doesn't know about it before it goes off, it's a surprise, but if they do know about it and it doesn't go off, it's suspense. Aside from that scene where (SPOILER!!!!) her friend is murdered,--which, if I'm not mistaken, happens well over halfway through the movie--there is very little in House of the Devil that clues the audience in on just why they should be concerned for the well being of the main character (unless you count, as you said, the film's title and the tacked-on text at the beginning about satanic cults, a good example of how telling is inferior to showing). I did have to laugh when I read Ary's remark, "Also, we’ve spent so much time exploring the home with the babysitter..." My mental response was, "Boy, do we ever!" It sort of works the first couple scenes where the main character obliviously wanders through the house, as we think that the next time she turns a corner she might run into something dangerous. After a while, it starts to become kind of funny. Overall, I found this movie a disappointment, but I did rather like the ending. I felt it would have been a really strong thirty-minute short film. Or not. If his segment for V/H/S is anything to go by, he would have kept the ratio of scenes where nothing happens to scenes where things happen proportional to the running time. Also, The Innkeepers blew.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 12:29 p.m. CST

    They're not dead, they've just fallen asleep

    by repo_man

    This film succeeds in imitating the film aesthetics of the era it's set in, including much slower pacing. It's so fucking slow it makes "Moon" look like "Crank" - I know it's all about building the anticipation of the reveal and all that, but it takes far too long getting there. I though this might've worked better as part of a portmanteau - something popular among horror films of the era - as it could easily survive losing an hour, but that would just highlight what an unimaginative, by the numbers story you're watching. One of the biggest problems with this film is that at no point does anyone catapult a brass unicorn through a window, impaling an eminent surgeon with its horn.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 12:32 p.m. CST

    detective_fingerling

    by repo_man

    She shoots herself in the head to stop the baby being born, but survives. The last shot is of her lying in a hospital bed unconscious with a nurse saying that the baby has survived. Then a brass unicorn comes flying through the window and impales the nurse.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 12:51 p.m. CST

    Shit movie.

    by DigitalBeachWar

    All style zero substance. The poster is the best thing about the film. Seriously boring. Watch any horror film from the 70s if you want to see a good devil movie.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 1:41 p.m. CST

    Looking forward to the science ficiton film he's developing

    by FreeBeer

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 3:13 p.m. CST

    I love this movie. Great little movie.

    by albert comin

    And the lead actress is adorability personified. This actress should be better known and into bigger things.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 3:23 p.m. CST

    So tomorrow it's Dr Phibes Rises Again...

    by Terry Powell

    ...odd, that's the second time you've reviewed a sequel to a better film. Though ...Rises Again is a much better film than Scream, Blacula, Scream(but cool title) and still a lot of fun.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 3:27 p.m. CST

    harryreickle

    by John Ary

    Growing up, I have fond memories of watching The Abominable Dr. Phibes on TBS' Super Scary Saturday with Grandpa Munster. We'll see how it lives up to the first one...

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 3:54 p.m. CST

    Great movie

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    Blind-bought the Blu-Ray for five bucks last week, and it was money well-spent. LOVED the 80's look and feel of the picture, which was spot-on.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 4:38 p.m. CST

    derlanghaarige

    by DrGogol

    You're an idiot. All filmmakers ape the previous generations and expand on them. It's how art works.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 6:03 p.m. CST

    johnary. Spot on review.

    by adeceasedfan

    I agree 100%.

  • same thing in one of his recent interviews.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 6:25 p.m. CST

    Sorry freebeer but...

    by DigitalBeachWar

    This movie is exactly shit. The pacing is way too slow and when things get "wild" the movie goes into an instantaneous coma. So much time is spent just wondering around a boring house with nothing going on. Then the "crazy" ending finally comes and then straight back into a coma. In my opinion- No tension was created. No real goal was achieved. Every ounce of dialogue was forced. If the film was heavily edited and made into a 20 minute short film it may have worked.

  • With Christopher Lee (I think) fighting witches and @ the end of the movie they have a showdown with the witches (a la Eyes Wide Shut), and like the devil shows up, Baphomet-style. As a youngster, I saw it at a drive-in with my brother and my mom. If this sounds familiar to anyone, I would love to know the name of it.

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 6:47 p.m. CST

    @deelzbub

    by ScaryJim

    It's 'The Devil Rides Out' (1968)

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 6:48 p.m. CST

    and

    by ScaryJim

    I loved 'House of the Devil' .

  • Oct. 11, 2012, 9:43 p.m. CST

    thanks scaryjim

    by deelzbub

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 12:18 a.m. CST

    I'm gonna be a terrier about this, sorry

    by mrgray

    People who enjoyed this movie: what was there, aside from the well-done retro aesthetic, to appeal to you? I always read about the "slow burn" tension in this movie, but what burns? Why are you nervous for this girl? Point to one actual plot point that creates or develops tension that gets paid off in any way, shape, or form. The friend? Okay, that's fair. And what happens as a result of the friend getting murdered? ............. Does the murderer do anything besides deliver tainted pizza? ............. Is the protagonist stalked by the murderer or by cult members? ........... See, nothing results from that murder so it's essentially pointless. In a well-written film, event A causes consequences B, which cause event C, which causes consequences D, etc. In House of the Devil, event A happens, then event C happens. Why? How are they connected? At BEST, the protagonist is cute and relatively innocent, so we don't want anything bad to happen to her. But since nothing bad is threatened (with the possible exception of the murderer, who DELIVERS PIZZA OOOOOH SCAAAARY!!!), there's nothing to worry about. With the sole exception that we know it's meant to be a horror movie. And that's just cheap cheating bullshit. Like the aesthetic. Dig the cute girl. But don't tell me that this thing was tense.