The House of the Devil

The House of the Devil

Directed by Ti West. Starring Jocelin Donahue, Greta Gerwig, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, A.J. Bowen, Dee Wallace. (2009, R, 95 min.)

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 30, 2009

New York-based director West nabbed some online press not long ago when he attempted to have his credit removed from the sequel to Eli Roth's Cabin Fever on the grounds that the film had been re-edited and partially reshot by others. (It should be noted that Austin actor Rusty Kelley has a role in Cabin Fever 2.) I haven't had a chance to watch West's sequel, but if it's half as good as the slow-burning Eighties horror homage that The House of the Devil is, then color me interested (and blood red). West's new film is a welcome, nerve-rattling anomaly in a year – okay, decade – in which effects-heavy/terror-lite remakes of a veritable Pandora's box of Seventies and Eighties slasher flicks have both bedeviled filmgoers with fond memories of the originals and placated a new generation with pale, unnecessary iterations of prior horror shows. The House of the Devil is an assuredly sinister and faithful re-creation of late-Seventies/early-Eighties horror that succeeds (mostly) in lulling the audience into thinking they know what's going on – and with a title like this, why wouldn't they? – before amping up the claustrophobic atmosphere and the overall suspense to Chinese-water-torture levels. It's not a classic so much as it is a doppelgänger; part of the film's off-kilter surreality comes from its retro look, tone, cinematography, and even music. The opening titles – freeze-framed shots of coed heroine Samantha (Donahue) accompanied by a louche guitar track that might've first been spawned on AM radio circa 1975 – completely nail the whole milieu in moments. Looking for new digs (which she finds, courtesy of genre stalwart Wallace) but cash-poor, Samantha answers a mysteriously ringing pay phone on her campus and ends up taking a babysitting gig … in hell! Well, in a really creepy house, anyway. Accompanied by her friend Megan (Gerwig, whose totally rocking hairstyle alone deserves its own sequel), Samantha finds herself overpaid and underworked in a most disturbing manner by the "parents," played by Noonan (The Monster Squad) and Woronov (Rock 'n' Roll High School). The perils of babysitting, heh, heh, heh, ensue. Some genre-based critics have reacted negatively to West's re-creation of the past, but this is no pillage, plunder, and profit job. The House of the Devil shows a young director tapping into the very trippy psyche of a particular time and place in indie-horror history, and while it stumbles a bit toward its final shock, The House of the Devil is by far the freakiest and most unnerving shocker in theatres this season.

More Ti West
Top 10 Festival Films You Haven't Seen Yet
Top 10 Festival Films You Haven't Seen Yet
The unreleased and the oddly evasive titles from 2013

Richard Whittaker, Jan. 5, 2014

The Animals are Coming: 'You're Next' Early Screening
The Animals are Coming: 'You're Next' Early Screening
Stars AJ Bowen and Barbara Crampton coming to town

Richard Whittaker, Aug. 6, 2013

More Ti West Films
The Innkeepers
With slow-burn shudders, Ti West's haunted-inn story provides a stellar model for creeping dread.

Marc Savlov, Feb. 3, 2012

The Roost
Basically a story about four young people whose car breaks down in the boondocks and the wretched things that befall them while first seeking help and then escape, this bare-bones horror film takes the hoary formula and runs wild.

Oct. 21, 2005

More by Marc Savlov
Richard Linklater: dream is destiny
Doc on local filmmaker is a thoughtful portrait

Aug. 26, 2016

Phantom Boy
Hand-drawn animation is the hallmark of this animated French film

July 29, 2016


The House of the Devil, Ti West, Jocelin Donahue, Greta Gerwig, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, A.J. Bowen, Dee Wallace

This content has not been formatted for this window size.
Please increase the size of your browser window, or revisit this page on a mobile device.
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)