The House of the Devil (2009)

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After watching and loving Ti West’s creepy cult flick “The Sacrament,” I decided to try this on for size. Bad idea. Let’s see, how does this movie exasperate and *piss the living crap* out of me? Let me count the ways. First (but not firstly) the premise- where have I seen this before? A pretty girl is hired to take on the babysitting job from Hell? Wait, I remember, dozens of horror movies and urban legends. Eek.. “Have you checked on the kids?” You know, that kind of thing.

This movie was also transparently derivative of “Halloween” in many ways, but I was willing to overlook that. ‘Homage’ and all that. You’ve got the good girl, the edgy friend (friend(s) in the case of Halloween.) Oh look, the waif fights back. Still, “Halloween” is the far superior film, with genuine scares and a strong and likable character in Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode.

But nothing could prepare for the craptastic number of infallacies in the plot. It’s the night of a solar eclipse, and pretty, perky  Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) leaves her campus to go to a house in the middle of nowhere, under shady circumstances, on a babysitting job. Never ONCE does she ask the man hiring her about the age of the child, any medical conditions, etc. over the phone. The man insists that the job is extremely important and never once does Sam question the intensity of his request.

Finally Samantha and her friend Megan (Greta Gerwig) drive off to this strange house. Megan thinks something’s up (huh, at least one of these girls has half a brain between them) so *SPOILER* of course Meg’s the first to go belly up. *END OF SPOILER* Enter effeminate old Mr. Ullman (Tom Noonan) and his overly touchy wife Mrs. Ullman (Mary Woronov, who is seriously manhandling Sam in her first scene.) When she gets there, they kindly inform her that it is not a child she will taking care of, but Mrs. Ullman’s mother.

Samantha understandably tells them that she is not trained to play nurse, Mr. Ullman advances on her menacingly and demands that it is ‘crucial.’ Well, as it turns out, our leading lady’s willing to do it… for a price. Fork it up, Ullman. Remind me why we’re supposed to be rooting for this girl?! Sam doesn’t ask to see the old crone, or even question if there IS an old crone. She simply takes the job no questions asked, because if she turns out raped, injured, or dead, at least she’s being paid well for it.

When the movie deteriorates into Satanic nonsense, I was already bored and fed up. There’s a weird demon thingie that looks like the love child of the faun from “Pan’s Labyrinth” and Lord Voldemort, a menacing pizza man, and a blood ritual. Eh. The beginning is extremely slow, but never in the establishment of the story do we get any innovation or character development. The climax is laughable. Even as someone who has a legitimate fear of demonic imagery, I was left unimpressed.

Needless to say (judging by my bitter, cynical rant, in other words) I was disappointed by this film. But charitable soul that I am, I may be willing to give Ti West another try. Anyone who was NOT turned off my misanthropic dissection of this film may discuss Ti West and his worthwhile endeavors (or lack thereof) with me. People who were can ignore me and watch it at their own risk. You can’t spare everyone, I guess.

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