This movie is a big step up for director Ti West whose debut film was like an immature fan boy’s homage to everything schlocky, while his sophomore film was nothing more than a terrible sequel to a rather terrible film. West matures considerably with what is basically a slow boil homage to the seventies that is obviously inspired by the classic “Rosemary’s Baby.” Everything from the marketing campaign to the posters works under the pretense that this is a time capsule of the seventies, an unexplored gem from that decade that many haven’t quite explored yet.
What it really is is West’s devotion to the sub-genre of satanic horror films that works so well as a horror film that takes its time working its way to the slam bang climax that is so twisted and morbid it’s hard to believe West directed this on a shoe string budget. Though the elements of the movie do bear West’s trademark nods to the genre, he overcomes the urges to outright bust a fan boy nut and instead relies on telling an actual story that is unsettling right from the outset. It’s not much of a spoiler to say that the presence of satanism is thick in the film, so much so that it becomes apparent that our heroine has absolutely no hope once she sets foot in the threshold of her new clients.
West doesn’t miss a beat setting the mood as everything from the opening credits to the soundtrack takes us back to a time where horror was more based around getting us involved with the characters before deciding to deliver an explosion of pure chaos and anarchy. If this ever played on television without establishing it’s new, old time horror geeks would be fooled in to believing this is some obscure title they missed between bouts of coke. Movies like Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby” took the time to build up to something, and West takes a page from that playbook to deliver his own tale of the satanism and mystery that centers around a young girl named Samantha who is in desperate need of money after agreeing to purchase a house.
Filled with insecurities about her financial well being she takes a job from an enigmatic man who is anxious to hire her to care for his kin. From the beginning nothing is as it seems and deep down the audience will catch on to this before Samantha ever does. Most of the movie is reliant on turning the house Samantha resides in in to a character all on its own. It has character and assorted nooks and crannies and Samantha’s fascination with it leads us in to a downhill spiral that begins with a shocker of a scene that sets in motion a chain of events that West delivers with some truly slick editing and direction.
West veteran Tom Noonan gives an unsettling performance as the keeper of the house who is quite interested in keeping Samantha happy, while Mary Woronov is delightfully disturbing as the matriarch of the home who also bears a keen interest in Samantha’s well being. Jocelin Donahue is quite a find as she gives off a real Jamie Lee Curtis vibe meshing perfectly with the early eighties set pieces and hitting some genuine emotional highs once West amps up the terror. This film won’t be for everyone, but for those of you who love a horror movie that works against typical Hollywood conventions then by all means, indulge in the glory that is “The House of the Devil.” I’m glad I gave Ti West another chance as he redeems himself with a truly superb throwback to eighties horror with “The House of the Devil,” a certified creepy horror film that will please many sick of the conventional Hollywood horror machine.