I've watched many a horror movie this past week in order to recommend the best to you, my dear friends; and while I can't claim that The House of the Devil is flawless, it is worth a late-night Halloween-week viewing and definitely the best of the bunch from the pile of DVDs I spent the week sifting through (which included the mouth-to-mouth vomit heavy Drag Me To Hell and the rather tedious When a Stranger Calls). A deliberate and effective homage to horror movies of the late seventies and early eighties (right down to the casting of thin and adorably Margot Kidderesque Jocelin Donahue as the heroine and titular fontography), HOTD is a slow burning film comprised of a series of extremely effective techniques. The skillful use of sound design, imagery, surprise and pacing results in genuine chills, but sadly the film misses the mark when it comes to the big reveal.
Maybe Ti West did himself a huge disservice by announcing the plot secret in an onscreen quote at the very beginning of the film, maybe it's just hard to make genuine scares out of clich?s; either way, by the end of the movie the dread the director worked so hard to evoke devolves rapidly into silliness… but at least its good and gory silliness featuring some of my favorite character actors: Mary Woronov and Tom Noonan.
Rather awesomely, the movie is currently available on-demand while it's still in theaters, making for a perfect night once friends and popcorn are added to the equation.