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House of the Devil: Pitch Perfect ‘80s Throwback

The House of the Devil hits every not right in its '80s tribute. The House of the Devil hits every not right in its '80s tribute.

New on DVD this month is the instant cult favorite, The House of the Devil. The film is a pitch-perfect homage to the slashers, thrillers, and horror flicks of the early ‘80s and late ‘70s.

Writer and director Ti West is clearly a superfan of this genre of film. Everything from the look of the film, the pacing, and even the promo poster screams 1981. And unlike some facsimiles of a bygone era, this one doesn’t miss a beat.

The onscreen titles, the costumes, the dialogue – it’s all there.

Detractors of the film might say that the first act moves slowly, but anyone familiar with the slasher flicks that inspired The House of the Devil know that it takes a while for things to pick up. It’s not like today’s wham-bam-thank-you-man gorefests.

The movement of the film is nuanced, as we follow Jocelin Donahue, who stars as Samantha, as she looks for a job so that she can move into her new apartment.

Samantha takes a babysitting job out in the countryside. But the job isn’t what it appears to be.

The suspense starts to build, and the scares start to come on slowly. The tension is palpable as Samantha tries to kill time under the lunar eclipse, nearly alone in a big empty house in the woods, with only a strange old woman hidden away in her upstairs room occupying the house.

The House of the Devil also brings in another theme that was big in the ‘80s – Satanism. Anybody who grew up in the ‘80s will remember the hysteria over supposedly Satanic cults, and how seriously America took the threat of the Satanic.

What makes The House of the Devil so effective is how seriously it treats its subject matter. Nothing is played for camp value. Sure, the ‘80s seem cheesy now, but at the time, that self-awareness was rare to non-existent. Everything about The House of the Devil comes off earnest without succumbing to a “wink-wink” at the audience when bits of nostalgia surface.

The original score by Jeff Grace is truly suspenseful without breaking the illusion that we are in the ‘80s. It balances period-correct sounds with downright freaky atmosphere to great effect.

Throw in some vintage clothing and ‘80s pop-rock one-hit-wonders, and you’ve got it all. 

The House of the Devil is brilliant, not just because of its sincere love and recreation of the ‘80s, but because it outdoes its source material. Those old popcorn movies were endearing, but usually not very good. The House of the Devil is genuinely scary and features a strong performance from Jocelin Donahue. Fans of frightening films and the ‘80s can’t afford to miss this one.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 26 July 2011 01:34

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