Sunday, March 14, 2010

Review: The House of the Devil

7/6/10: Just an addendum this review has been submitted to the Final Girl Film Club.

Synopsis: In the 1980s, college student Samantha Hughes takes a strange babysitting job that coincides with a full lunar eclipse. She slowly realizes her clients harbor a terrifying secret; they plan to use her in a satanic ritual.
Well I bet that synopsis sounds good doesn't? And how about that poster, looks pretty bad ass right? And that trailer, it's pretty suspenseful huh? Well let me start this off by saying that the best thing about this movie was the poster. The trailer is actually better than the entire film! One of the quotes in the trailer says "Creepy as hell!" when in actuality The House of the Devil is BORING AS HELL!!!!!

**Spoilers ahead**Suffice it to say that the lead, Samantha (Jocelin Donahue), needs money for a new place to live off campus and decides to take the offer to babysit from some guy. Her friend, Megan (Greta Gerwig), doesn't like it but decides to drive her to the client's house anyway (which is in the middle of nowhere, of course) and insists that she stay and keep Sam company (There I just saved you 40 minutes of the movie). Once there we are introduced to Mr. Ullman who is creepy, but that's not saying much because the actor Tom Noonan (Manhunter) is the epitome of creepy. He informs Sam that he kinda lied and actually doesn't have a child that needs babysitting but rather his elderly mother that needs to be looked at while him and his wife go out to look at the lunar eclipse. *PERSONAL RANT* Now if it were me (or any other sane person out there) I would be saying "Fuck you, your wife and your mother I'm OUT!" but I guess that wouldn't make much of a movie.*END RANT* He convinces Sam to stay by offering $300, she tells him she'll do it for $400, he agrees and she stays. Oh and then when he says that he can't pay her friend (despite paying Sam $400) she tells Megan that she has to go and that she can come back later to pick her up...WHAT?! I know...what an idiot, she just got $400 out of this guy but she couldn't keep her friend there with her. Anyway Mr. and Mrs.Creepy leave, her friend departs pissed off (understandably) and Sam is left alone in the house. And then pretty much nothing happens for about 30-40 minutes.

We just see Sam futzing around the house looking at stuff opening some doors, turning on the tv, turning off the tv, opening her school bag to take out her books, putting her books back in her bag, ordering pizza, putting on her walkman, going around the house AGAIN while dancing....yadda yadda yadda. Oh yeah in the middle of all this her friend pulls over down the road to light a cigarette and ***SPOILER*** and get's shot in the face. That part was pretty cool but that's about it. (Ok that was about 35 minutes of the movie) Let's see...she hears a noise...there's some dead people in a room with a pentagram on the floor but she doesn't see it...she gets her pizza delivered by the guy who shot her friend but she doesn't know that...she eats a bit but it tastes funny and throws it out...she hears another noise and goes to investigate but she passes out from the spiked pizza (another 10 minutes done)...oh look she's become a part of a satanist ritual...some old woman draws a bloody pentagram on Samantha's belly and makes her drink blood (this with the lunar eclipse taking place apparently gets her pregnant)...Sam unties herself...Tom Noonan, his wife and the fake delivery guy watch while Sam gets away...she runs into her friend's faceless dead body...Sam kills the wife and her son (fake delivery guy)...somewhere she stabs Tom Noonan..she gets a gun...Noonan chases her into the cemetery..he begs her to give birth to the devil...she shoots herself in the head to keep it from happening....but she actually survives. In the end we see Sam lying in a hospital bed with a nurse assuring her that her and her baby are going to be fine (last 10 minutes).

Condensing the movie down in writing may make it sound intriguing but trust me when seeing this film in the span of 95 minutes it is excruciatingly painful to watch. This film could have easily been presented in one hour, 1hr 15 min TOPS and it could have been a decent if not a routine satanist run amok movie. There is so much exposition in there that it is unnecessary, I mean I can appreciate a slow burn in a movie but this one crosses the line into drawn out boredom. The ONE thing the director does well is recreate the 80's environment that the film takes place in, but this alone does not help this film one bit. I did not feel any sense of dread nor was I scared at the parts that were supposed to be scary. The whole satanist thing was lame the second the room with the dead bodies and bloody pentagram showed up. And with all the build up to the final scene, the payoff was lacking in the end. I keep reading on the internet about comparisons to Rosemary's Baby from fans of THotD. But where Polanski's film properly builds REAL tension and dread and keeps the viewer wondering if something sinister is really happening to Rosemary, The House of the Devil fantastically fails at attempting to conjure up any emotion other than sheer apathy.

Viewing suggestion: rent, watch on tv/cable or avoid completely.