Sunday, November 1, 2009

The House of the Devil

I'm not a huge horror movie fan. I guess it's because they tend to be too formulaic, and that formula tends to be: introduce a bunch of characters, and then kill them all. To me, that formula is missing a third act, you know? So I tend to shy away from most horror movies simply because, to me, if you've seen one, you've seen 'em all. Plus, it doesn't much creativity to have something pop out of the shadows accompanied by a loud sound effect.

But occasionally, a horror movie will come along that really works for me. I thought PARANORMAL ACTIVITY was pretty good, although a bit gimmicky. I liked THE STRANGERS for awhile, until it turned into that "two act" formula I mentioned earlier. The last really good horror movie I saw was THE DESCENT, which had engaging characters, a truly original premise, and some fantastic direction.


As I write this, it's in (very) limited release, but is available On Demand. It's a fantastic, low budget horror movie with almost unbearable tension. It's filmed on 16mm film and set in the 1980s, yet it's not played for laughs. There's not a single wink or nudge to be seen. It's played entirely straight, and has atmosphere and creepiness to spare.

The premise is simple: Samantha, a college student with money woes, takes a job as a babysitter in a creepy house with even creepier owners. That's it. Sounds pretty generic, right? And it could be, in the hands of a lesser director. But Ti West (who I'd never heard of before this movie) does a fantastic job of building mood and ratcheting up the tension as the film unfolds.

Be warned that it's a very slow-moving, deliberate film. And I wouldn't be surprised if today's audiences (the people who like SAW, for example) find the film "boring." But if you're reading this blog, I automatically assume you have excellent taste.

So trust me, and seek out this movie.