The horror genre may appear to be going through dry spell; however, there is always room for great films in any genre. The majority of horror films use dark shadows, blood, guts, and torture to scare their audiences. These aspects are present in The House of The Devil; however, they are not the filmmakers’ primary devices.
Still of Jocelin Donahue in The House of the Devil
Director Ti West is a master of suspense and subverting expectations. His film is not set in the real world, but rather in the world established by past films in the horror genre. West wisely chose to set his film in the 1980s, thereby immediately conveying to the audience the type of film they are viewing. West did not just set The House of The Devil in the 1980s, he also used music and visual techniques reminiscent from that time period. This helps the viewer connect to story’s arc in relation to its characters.
The primary character is Samantha Hughes, a college student, who is desperate for money and takes an odd babysitting job to earn what she needs. Although there is some set up, things start to get creepy right away.
The first two-thirds of The House of the Devil could be misconstrued as just set up; however, this part of the movie is much more than it seems to be. West spends a large portion of his film putting the viewer on edge. It is obvious from the very beginning of the film that something bad is going to happen. While the audience is aware that unfortunate events are going to unfold, they are never unaware of the upcoming points when things are going to take a turn for the worst. This makes The House of The Devil function like a boiling pot of water. The temperature slowly rises until the heat is no longer bearable.
[ad name=”Google Adsense-bottom”]If you are a fan of horror, but have been disillusioned by the onslaught on mediocre films in the genre, then The House of The Devil is certainly worth seeking out. As I mentioned earlier Ti West does a great job at subverting expectations. I believe that this is his strongest asset. He understands standard conventions and seeks to twist them accordingly.
West uses visual cues to set up his characters. The cues help his actors fulfill roles that are standard in horror films, and convey to the audience the unique world that he wants to explore. From the very beginning of The House of The Devil viewers have a clear understanding of where the narrative is going. West establishes a relationship with the viewer. It is clear to both parties what the film wants to achieve and what satisfaction the audience wants to derive. Not every film needs to be Citizen Kane, and it’s nice to see a film that strives to achieve a very specific goal.
By the time Samantha’s world, played by Jocelin Donahue, is transformed into something that mirrors something truly terrifying the viewer has lived with the protagonist and gotten to know her. Unlike many of the mainstream torture/horror films, The House of The Devil does not just show violence; Ti actually makes the viewer get to know his characters. By time things wwent wrong I actually cared what was going to happen to them. I think that mainstream audiences are really missing out on what the horror genre can achieve. Hostel and Saw are missing some of the necessary components to become great horror films. Hopely Ti West’s future films will continue to reach ever wider audiences.
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