The House of the Devil is not a very good horror film. It isn’t all that scary, it’s extremely predictable and doesn’t make sense. Director Ti West has studied his 1970’s and 80’s horror classics and has the look and feel of those eras down cold. But the visual look of a film is only one part. C’mon, West.
Here is what happens: Samantha just signed for a fucking awesome apartment. Since Samantha reminds the landlady of her own daughter, she waives the deposit fee and just asks for first month’s rent on Monday. Sadly, Samantha only has 84 dollars in her checking account and isn’t sure how she’ll pay it. So she calls a number for a baby sitting job, arranges to meet the parent and the dude never shows. Bummer. Samantha and her friend Megan get pizza. They talk about Samantha’s dilemma. Megan thinks the pizza is gross. Later, Samantha finds out from her slut roommate(who is also a slob) that the parent called about the baby sitting job. Samantha calls him back, he apologizes, says he’ll pay her double for the job, ($100! And that’s in 1980’s money!) she reluctantly agrees and at that point I thought maybe the movie was going to start.
Megan drives Samantha to a spooky house in the middle of the forest where they meet Tom Noonan. Tom Noonan is curt and straightforward with them on fees and what will be expected of Samantha. Just kidding! Noonan is totally creepy, evasive and vague. Very Noonan. Turns out there is no baby and that Big Noon wants Samantha to look after his mother who is upstairs since Noonan’s wife is worried about leaving her surely lovely inlaw alone while she and Noonan go out to scope the lunar eclipse. Samantha plays hardball and gets Noonan is pay her $400 for four hours work of sitting around in their house. Noonan even pitches in an extra twenty bucks for pizza. Whattaguy.
Megan reacts rationally and says “Fuck this place, dude is a creeper.” Samantha asks her to chill and pick her up later. On her way home, Megan gets a flat and is shot in the face. That part was kinda sweet. Back at the old creepy house Samantha sits around, looks in all the rooms where nothing interesting is going on, dances to a mixtape of The Fixx on her Walkman(1980’s muthafucka) and only watches a newscast pertinent to the plot. Thanks, Sam. This part of the film lasted between 30 minutes and 3 hours. Shit went on forever. At one point she almost goes into a room full of pentagrams and dismembered bodies but then goes downstairs and orders a pizza. The pizza is delivered by the guy who shot Megan in the face. In a running theme in The House of the Devil, Samantha finds the pizza to be kinda gross. Eventually, all the lights go out for no reason and Samantha collapses in a stairwell either due to fear or possible drugged ‘za. She awakens to find herself strapped to a pentagram and promptly loses her shit. But hey, everybody is there! Tom Noonan is back, so’s his wife and even the pizza/bullet delivery guy. They have neat robes and they’re accompanied by some guy with a KA-RAZY face. Coulda been a fire, maybe a birth defect, or a bad case of Devil. Crazy Face starts doing a ritual with blood drinkings and the cutting of wrists, followed by some smearing of blood on Samantha’s stomach. At this point, we find out that if you decide to become a professional satanist you probably didn’t spend much time as a boy scout as Samantha is able to pull and kick her way out of her roped bindings. These four full grown adult satanists are no match for 5 foot 4 inch college sophomore and she smokes ‘em all. Crazy Face gets checked, Pizza Guy gets his throat cut the fuck up and Noonan’s wife gets a knife in the back while doing the satanist version of Goodnight Moon. Noonan is stabbed too but manages to chase Samantha to a graveyard where he says that Sam can kill him since he is “only a messanger”. Samantha realizes what a fucked up situation she’s found herself in, rationalizes that the new apartment isn’t that nice, realizes she’d have to move back in with her slut roommate because there is no way she’s going to get full payment from Noonan now and shoots herself in the head.
BUT SHE SURVIVES. In the IC Unit we see a heavily bandaged Samantha comforted by a kind nurse. “You’ll be okay,” she says softly. The nurse puts her hand on Samantha’s stomach, “Both of you.” BOOM. Credits.
I am a fervent supporter of suspense. Without suspense, the payoff just isn’t that tasty. Ti West stretches his suspense to the point of tedium. If not for the final ten minutes The House of the Devil could have been called My friend got shot in the face and now I don’t have a ride home from this creepy house. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to wrap my head around West’s decision to include an opening text that removes much of the mystery of the plot. Telling us that the film will contain satanists takes away the menace of Tom Noonan’s character. I thought suspense was generated by the unknown. Having some random guy wander around shooting people in the face is neat for a minute but so what? Eighty percent of House‘s running time is devoted to Samantha walking around campus, her dorm and then the titular house with little to no conflict. At one point I was more concerned whether or not she’d be able to pay the rent on her new apartment(hardwood floors, yo). I’ll bet once she recovers from a bullet to the brain Samantha and her demon spawn are going to move in with her parents. I am well aware of the old Hitchcock line about people talking about baseball are boring(no duh, Hitch) but people talking about baseball with a bomb under the table that they don’t know about is suspense. Correct. College girl hanging out in a Satanist’s house for what actually feels like 4 hours isn’t suspense, it’s dull. And what was the satanist plan anyway? Leave her in the house, hope she doesn’t find the room full of dead bodies, drug her IF she orders pizza? Way to plan it out, Noonan. Shit was dull and then it was slapdash. But it sure did look like the 1980’s so cred cred cred.