Jocelin Donahue & Greta Gerwig in The House of the Devil
Those of us who spent many hours in the '70s and '80s watching satanic cultists at work and play in junk like "Race With the Devil" (1975) will experience director Ti West's fourth feature in a different way from those who weren't around then, or were confining their filmgoing to more noble matters.
"The House of the Devil" works either way. It is a fine little old-school thriller, set in the 1980s and devoted, fondly, to the visual syntax and Farrah-inspired hair of the era. When the main character, a cash-strapped college sophomore played by a sympathetic and easygoing
The best bits in the film use period detail for unexpected shivers. Remember that robotic male voice emanating from so many answering machines back then, the one instructing us earthlings to "please. leave a. message. after the. beep"? It's here. So is the grungy pay phone that rings unexpectedly. (A few years from now we'll have to explain what a pay phone was.)
"Paranormal Activity" continues, profitably, to remind America of the virtues of gore-free fright; West's film, destined for a more select audience, reacquaints us with the virtues of the right amount of gore, spattered just so. The filmmaker's primary influences are "
A lunar eclipse provides the backdrop for writer-director-editor West's sly suspense-building exercise. The first act of violence comes suddenly, and it's placed almost perfectly in a very simple story. It's too bad West (whose next release will be "Cabin Fever 2") couldn't have pulled a more surprising variation or two in the final scenes. But even the familiar tropes of "The House of the Devil" are familiar in the right way, like an old, bloodstained sweater.
"The House of the Devil" Movie Trailer
MPAA rating: R (for some bloody violence).
Running time: 1:33.
Credits: Written and directed by Ti West; produced by
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