The House of the Devil (2010) | Old school horror comes to roost in Ti West’s satanic tale


Sophomore student Samantha, played by Jessica Harper look-a-like Jocelin Donahue, finds her own apartment but needs cash to make the first month’s payment. After taking up a babysitting job at the remote country home of an elderly couple, the Ulman’s, she is stunned to learn she will actually be looking after their elderly mother instead. When Mr Ulman (Tom Noonan, aka Frankenstein in The Monster Squad) offers Sam $400 for the night, she accepts the offer – much to the displeasure of best buddy Megan (a brilliant PJ Soles-like Greta Gerwig). What follows is, in the best tradition of 1970s satanism and 1980s slashers, a night of sheer terror as Sam comes to realise that something sinister is afoot and that she is the key to a terrifying ritual.

The House of the Devil

Drawing heavily on Roman Polanski’s chillingly perfect psychodramas Repulsion and The Tenant, director Ti West has done a masterful job with this period psychological horror. He has even successfully pulled cult favourite Mary Woronov out of retirement (a feat in itself according to the director) to lend her dark presence as the mysterious Mrs Ulman. In fact, so great is her mystique that when she made her grand entrance, even John Landis (who was sitting next to me at the film’s UK premiere at 2009’s FrightFest) gasped in excitement. Now that’s an honour. Meanwhile, Howling actress Dee Wallace makes a decent cameo as Sam’s landlady. Too bad we don’t see more of her, though.

The House of the Devil

Thanks to a dedicated art department, the film faithfully recreates a 1970s feel in this house of the devil, right down to the brown flock wallpaper, terrible furniture and wall phone (which plays an essential role). Even the soundtrack and credits look like they were of the period.

The House of the Devil

The House of the Devil perfectly captures that horror staple of the era it evokes – Satanism. In fact, the movie opens with real statistics that 70% of Americans believed devil worshipping cults existed, while the other 30% believed government cover-ups prevented people from knowing about them.

The House of the Devil

If you like your horror served slow roasted with a dash of fright rather than a series of kills for thrills then The House of the Devil is just for you.

The House of the Devil screens in the UK on The Horror Channel (Sky 319, Virgin 149).


About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on December 30, 2013, in Horror, Must See, Must-See and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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