Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Under 250: The House of the Devil

If you don't believe that there can be something comforting about a horror film, you might not be the target audience for director Ti West's low-budget nostalgia piece The House of the Devil.  If you love the satisfaction that comes with old school slasher suspense, however, watching this film feels like being visited by a ghoulish old friend.  The premise is one that feels familiar: fresh-faced college girl Sam (Jocelin Donahue) takes a baby-sitting job to earn enough rent money to get out of dodge.  It's the night of a lunar eclipse and she finds herself in a creepy old house with some responsibilities that aren't quite what she signed up for.  What follows is a game in which West puts all the right pieces down.  Sam has time enough to explore, wander eerie hallways, make dead-end phone calls, slowly climb the shrieking stairs.  The film is pitch perfect.  Everything one needs for an affectionately rendered homage is present from the music, the costumes and the acting all the way to the opening credit sequence and grade of cinematography.  Yet, while it plays the role of  homage to the B-cinema of yore, it also surpasses the bulk of its influences to become a gem in its own right.  While I'd hesitate to call it frightening (I'll admit, though, that I'm not one easily perturbed), it is an entrancing, involving horror film with few disappointments and a just slightly-camp-enough appeal that makes it enjoyable to genre fans and casual watchers alike.   

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