Pagan worships and lovers of the occult are nothing new to horror fans. The sad display of exorcism movies that have been poured on viewers in the 2000’s have already made fans more intelligent regarding the cliched use of the devil in movies. In order for a movie about demons to succeed, it either needs to be incredibly unique and/or crafted incredibly well. While The House of the Devil doesn’t super exceed any of those prerequisites, it does have just enough creativity and mastery to make it a film worth checking out.
Set in the 80’s, a young college student is desperately trying to find a new place to live with very little funds to do so. After Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) finally finds a place to shack up, she realizes that she only has a couple days to procure enough money for the deposit. In a subtle moment of ingenuity, she does what every college student never does, reply to a bulletin board posting. The babysitting job she finds appears harmless enough, but after constant lies regarding what the job actually entails, Samantha and her friend Megan find themselves really uncomfortable with the job. It is only after some truth sharing and a raise of hundreds of dollars that Samantha decides the job is worth the risk.
Most horror fans are on the lookout for stupidity when it comes to the main characters. Due to Samantha's lack of money, it seems reasonable enough that she would take a bit of risk in order to make a lot of money. Instead of the presumed job of babysitting a child, the caretakers inform her that she needs to simply make sure an aging mother is kept safe. Hundreds of dollars earned with only the off chance that something actually happens to this older lady. The lies that the homeowner's, Mr. and Mrs. Ulman, spew seem small compared to the reward. Of course, Mr. and Mrs. Ulman are creepy and are fixated on a lunar eclipse that will be happening that night, but this doesn’t seem that strange since many of the television stations and news channels are talking about this same eclipse. Basically, Samantha isn’t like many horror girls that are inept at taking care of themselves.
The scares presented in The House of the Devil are spaced out and rely more on circumstance than general horror. Like a spider weaving a web, the Ulmans are slowly drawing Samantha into their sinister plans. It isn’t until the last 20 minutes where all hell breaks loose and the entertainment really begins. In fact, it is fair to say that The House of the Devil could have used just a bit more scares and a little less buildup. While the focus is on demons and witchcraft, the eyes are drawn to Samantha's primal abilities to defend herself and do whatever is necessary to prevent the Ulmans from accomplishing their plan. I wouldn’t say that the ending leaves the viewer on an edge, but many will find it to be a strong drop off from the tumbles and fast paced action just moments before.
Needing only a couple more frightening scenes and possibly a more inspired ending, I couldn’t help but feel like The House of the Devil was a tad undercooked. Wonderful acting, music, and a worn out, but weirdly fresh plot make this film worth seeing, but don’t be shocked if you feel disappointed with how it all turns out. No matter what, The House of the Devil is a worthy entry into the demon genre and while it won’t turn horror on its head, it will at least keep it living another day.
If you liked The House of the Devil, you might also like Rosemary's Baby.