Review Rating: 7.5
Set in the 1980’s, a teenage babysitter encounters seriously strange circumstances when she takes a job at an unusual house during a full lunar eclipse.
Harkening back to the days of Horror yore, when titans like John Carpenter and Wes Craven still stalked our worst nightmares, House of the Devil is like a tribute band playing the best of their covers to the very best of their ability – and for the most part, it pays off. House is the very best of a slow burn, aimed at 30-somethings like me who remember the 80’s with mostly fond thoughts. The ambiance is good and believable, attention to detail so one feels like they’re in the 80’s is great, and even the actors seem to be taking the “we’re back in this time period, really” vibe seriously. Main character Sam even has her hair Heathered. (That’s feathered a la Heather Locklear folks.)
So Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue) needs to make extra money, as her landlady (Dee Wallace, yes, her) is getting uppity. After getting offered a babysitting job from a rather unnerving Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan), Sam reluctantly says yes. Convincing her friend Megan (Greta Gerwig) to drive her, Sam gets more and more nervous upon arriving at the out-of-the-way mansion to find out from Mr. Ulman that yes, it is a babysitting job, but no, they have no children. Rather, Mr. Ulman and his wife (Mary Woronov) want Sam to watch over his elderly and troubled mother, they say, just for a few hours work, and we’ll pay $400+, which is a damn sight more than Sam would’ve gotten elsewise. Despite serious reservations, both from Megan and Sam herself, Sam takes the job and convinces Megan to come back and pick her up later. Megan leaves the mansion in an unsatisfied huff, and stops to have what she doesn’t realize is a last cigarette, effectively leaving Sam all alone in that house. Sam wanders through the house with her Walkman and her curiosity, learning what she can and attempting to find Ulman’s “mother” in there somewhere. After ordering a pizza, Sam discovers odd evidence that the house may have actually been stolen by the Ulmans and that there’s a lot more going on here than just a simple babysitting job. Trying to remain calm, Sam staves off the 911 call and munches down on pizza, which of course turns out to have been drugged. Well, damnit. Cut to…
Sam wakes to find herself tied and gagged and enduring some massively horrific and bloody ritual with herself as the focal point. In spite of the terrifying visions and the monstrosities being played out about her, Sam manages to escape after killing quite a few of the cultists, only to be hunted down by Mr. Ulman himself in a nearby cemetery. The gun used to kill poor Megan is turned on Ulman, but not after he gets the last word in, claiming to be only a Messenger and informing Sam that she’s too late. So Sam, rather than be party to any of this, finally turns the gun on herself. And poor Sam, I feel for the girl really, because not even popping herself with the gun saved her from the end, which it turns out is a beginning too. As in, Sam wakes to find herself in the hospital and a nurse telling her, Sam, that both her and her blossoming stomach will be just fine.
Noonan has long been a mainstay of the weird and odd, all the way back to when he starred as Francis Dolarhyde in the first version of Red Dragon, which was called Manhunter. Star Donahue was recently in Insidious Chapter 2, being the closest to the Horror flick currently reviewed. Somehow, the mix of believable ambiance, fine weird acting, and a drop-by-drop story, make for a very fine Horror viewing indeed!
Make your sacrifice and watch The House of the Devil on Amazon Prime Video now!