Thursday, October 28, 2010

House of the devil


Some part of me wants to be kinder to House of the Devil than I have the patience to be.

Seriously, I didn't like it at all. I can't imagine why it's gotten a pass from the horror community. Frankly, it seems like MST3K material to me. Hell, they roasted several movies that I like and a couple I admire a lot.

But I can't help the feeling that's one of the ways that the '80s setting and intentional vibe work against it, in reminding me of any of a number of low budget movies of a period, dismissed to become mere cannon fodder.

For me, the timeframe, within my living memory, kept me thinking things like "When did the Walkman get big? It was the early '80s, but then it was introduced earlier than it broke. Is she supposed to be really on top of things or am I wrong about when that was or the year this movie is?", "How many people had rotary dial phones and an answering machine?"

No, I didn't really get a "Gotcha!" moment out of it, but I'll admit that all of it was keeping my in my intellectual headspace rather than following the movie and its characters where it was going.

I can't really talk about the movie without spoiling it, so any of you left who haven't seen it and still think you will, beware.

I think there's a good potential movie about a young woman who finds herself in a strange house babysitting an unseen old woman and feeling anxious, while finding increasingly weird clues that something terrible might be going on.

Unfortunately, a movie that consciously calls back to '80s horror, opens with a weird supposed statistic about people's belief in "abusive Satanic cults" during that time period - What the hell is an "abusive Satanic cult" anyway?! - and is called House of the Devil is not that movie. The fact that she was sitting at the house of creepy Satanists was a given, which only put in greater relief how stupid the clues our lead character was taking, with little if any sign of self-doubt, to mean something sinister was happening were.

The lady of the house went to the basement to get her furs, but she had other furs upstairs? Maybe she wanted the furs she wore specifically. They certainly looked a lot different from the ones she left behind.

There's pictures of people other than the couple who hired her to sit standing outside their house by their car? Maybe they were friends or relatives. I know tons of people with pictures like that. Of course, these were framed, but then I took that as a movie device anyway, especially because of the '80s vibe gimmick. Nobody really has framed pictures of anyone, including themselves, standing outside their own house by their own car framed and tucked in a wardrobe.

I expect better clues from an episode of Scooby Doo!

And that would be fine, perhaps even compelling, if there was some ambiguity regarding whether the ridiculous conclusions she drew were accurate.

But it's an '80s callback movie called House of the Devil that opens with some weird statistic about "abusive Satanic cults".

Ambiguity thrown in the garbage.

Here I should note the two things I did like in the movie, Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov. They were delightful. So much that I spent most of the movie wondering when that nice older couple would finally kill the snoopy bitch wandering around their house like a five year old with severe attention deficit issues.

I probably wasn't the guy for this movie. I'm the right age that I watched tons of horror movies in the '80s, but I don't have nostalgia for the period.

I love the ones that have stuck with me, The Thing, Scanners, Hellraiser... but what is this one supposed to call us back to anyway? Deadly Friend? Witchboard?

I'm sorry. I could probably babble on about my frustration over this one all day, especially considering the generally positive reviews I' ve seen for, but I'm frankly just glad it's over and I can remember it as one more reason why I'm annoyed at horror that calls back rather than looks forward.

Oh, and Kimberly Rae wandered around the house singing "House of the devil" to the tune of Shout at the Devil by Mötley Crüe! That was pretty fun.


4 comments:

elgartcalago said...

I am going to check this out! Horror isn't be a scary at all it could be also thrilling.

Neil Sarver said...

No one has argued that the horror genre is capable of many more things than mere "scariness" more often or more vigorously than me.

In fact I think the "thrilling" or at least terrifically suspenseful movie that this could have been is undercut by the promise of "scariness".

But that's just me. I know lots of people enjoyed it. Best of luck.

Kimberlicious said...

"HOUSE OF THE DEVIALLLLLLL!"

Neil Sarver said...

House! House!

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