Movies From the Black Lagoon: House of the Devil
Movies From the Black Lagoon
House of the Devil - 2009, Rated R
By Tom Doty
It seems that every studio is remaking a 70's or 80's horror film and that's okay but those of you who just want that 70's vibe will be more than happy with this flick from Ti West (Cabin Fever 2).
It starts off with a wholesome college coed, Samantha, looking at off campus housing. Her realtor is so smitten with her harms that she lets her off the hook for a security deposit. Now Sam just needs to come up with a month's rent by the end of the week. Her situation is not exactly desperate (she only needs a place because her dorm-mate has a boyfriend who practically lives with them) which is a refreshing change from the melodrama that's usually substituted for character development in horror cinema.
Sam gets a shot at the big bucks when she answers an ad for a babysitting gig. The couple is willing to pay a lot for a sitter (as a parent I get that but waving a hundred bucks at her should have been a red flag) so Sam takes the gig. The warning signs are all in place with a lunar eclipse approaching, the couple lying about the baby's identity (it's actually an elderly woman), and the mere fact that the house is located way out of town. Sam thinks she has won when she quadruples her asking price (due to the deception) but we all know that she won't be spending a dime of her salary.
If you haven't figured out that things will be getting very bad soon just recheck the title of this sucker. Pretty soon Sam is choking on a poisoned pepperoni pizza, but she should have questioned the fact that anyone would deliver food so far out of town. Her best friend is the only one who can save her but the audience knows that she never made it off the property after learning too late that cigarettes are even worse for your health when you share one with a gun carrying Satanist.
It all leads to a satanic plot and a nuclear family that would give the "Chainsaw Massacre" clan a run for their money. Samantha gives as good as she gets but this movie's ending is never in doubt. Buckle up and just enjoy the ride.
This one gets points for keeping it simple and delivering enough jolts to keep you on the edge of your seat. We have all seen the elements of this story in several films but West manages to give it all new life through measured direction and excellent music cues. He also gives a nod to the era he's saluting by casting actors like Tom Noonan (so memorable as "the Tooth Fairy" in1986's "Man hunter") and Mary Woronov (Eating Raul) as the chief villains. Jocelin Donahue makes for a wholesome heroine who's worth rooting for, for all the good that will do.
Keep an eye out for West's work and be sure to check out his earlier films. "The Roost" is my favorite and it features a nice turn by Noonan again. Here he's a 'Crypt Keeper" type of host that introduces the film but does not appear in the actual story.
Best Line: "It's not like the moon's going to explode, though that would be cool."
Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.