Adam Walsh fucked up my childhood. Seriously, when that kid’s severed head turned up in a ditch it sent a shock wave of hysteria throughout
Parents instilled within their children a new sense of paranoia for their own good. Personalized clothing items were replaced with those humiliating child leashes as mom and dad were suddenly made aware that the walls which separate you from the guy next door may very well be the greatest detriment in raising your family. America.
With the millennial change looming on the horizon, many folks lurched out of the seventies with a keen spiritual awareness. There was a lot of doom and gloom on the airwaves at the time, and somewhere between the Son of Sam and the Bucky McMartin trial, people became very concerned that the ranks of Satan were dwelling amongst us, and were growing each day. The end of the world wore a dark hooded robe, ate babies, molested your daughters, listened to Judas Priest, and it was lurking just around the bend, waiting to sodomize you.
Around this time, the New Age Reich’s regressive memory trend was picking up momentum, and people were suddenly having all sorts of terrifying recall, from alien abduction to satanic enslavement. Books such as Maury Terry’s "The Ultimate Evil," in spite of offering next to no reputable source to substantiate claims of an underground national network of Satanism, effectively fanned the flames of hysteria.
Meek and bespectacled, my uncle Johnny worked at a sewage treatment plant for the county. He was more enthusiastic about human shit than anyone I’d ever met in my life. Like most Irish Catholics, he’d settled down at a young age with his wife, and by the eighties was pushing a sizeable family. By the birth of his sixth child, Johnny’s wife began to exhibit extreme symptoms of postpartum depression. Someone recommended a psychologist, whom she began seeing immediately. After several months of therapy she returned home one day with a wild look in her eyes and told my uncle that she had recovered memories of her father molesting her during black mass. She claimed she had vivid recollection of Satanic Ritual abuse starting at an early age. What came next was even more shocking as she levied an accusing finger at my uncle, implicating him as being a part of the Satanic network. She accused Johnny of forcing her and the children to participate in grizzly, perverted rituals that would ensure the Devil his victory in the the rumored coups d'etat of 1999. Obviously, that bitch was really off her rocker. Sadly, even though no one other than his wife bought into these bat shit allegations, it completely tore their family apart.
Stories like these weren't as uncommon as you might think, and a lot of lives were impacted due to the regressive memory phenomenon. However, when the new millennium finally arrived, California didn't sink, there was no UFO takeover, and Satan never ascended to his throne in Mexico city. Most people realized that "The Omen" was just a movie and not an inevitable event, though there are some holdouts clinging tenaciously to their Mayan calenders.
I was pretty excited when I heard that "House of the Devil" would explore the 80s paranoia of rampant Satanic ritual abuse. The reality of the topic hadn't been explored yet, and in the hands of the right person it had the potential to be the most original horror film in decades. So, with enthusiasm I hunkered down with friends to catch a viewing of what some asshole boasted was to become the next great cult film.
I really wanted to like this movie. I really did. I gave it a chance. I made an event out of the screening. I invited my friends over. I made popcorn. We had a cheese tray for God's sake. You ever have one of those parties though, where everyone's having a good time, and then something happens that just fucks the whole thing up? Like, say someone brings your dog Arby's and he runs through the house while spewing molten diarrhea out of his ass like the oil slick from the car in Spy Hunter? And people are slipping around and falling in it? Well, that's pretty much what Ti West did to my party. Thanks, pal. Drop by again real soon.
Instead exploring the 1980s fundamentalist panic over Satanism, we get a rudimentary snapshot of that myth. Poor execution amounts to a stale story about a dumbass baby sitter lured into a ritual by a family of devil worshippers. We've seen this done before, and better. Beyond that, this is one boring piece of shit. I'd rather sit through four consecutive viewings of "Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby" than sit through ONE viewing of "House of the Devil." The only thing terrifying about this movie is how bad Mary Waranov looks.
This isn't so much an awesome 80s throwback as it is a misunderstanding of what 80s horror actually was.
One of the most annoying aspects of the film is its grainy look. The fact that 80s horror films look like gnarled pieces of shit that someone backed over in a field of gravel is a complete misconception. In fact, A LOT of 80s horror looks really crisp. While watching, I could not help but think that this kid saw "Grindhouse" and thought he could make a dated looking movie, too. Too much went into the style and look of the film and not enough into the actual story. The script sinks so fast you'd think it was printed with led ink.
While the movie begins with a few flecks of promise, it regresses into an obvious tribute to lead actress Jocelin Donahue’s cuteness as she bounces around a big empty house with her walkman. Get it? Walkman? LIKE IN THE EIGHTS? WOOAAAH!
Ti tries hard to create a tense mood piece, but it falls flat due to the fact that absolutely nothing happens. Successful films in this vein leave nuances of dread throughout the plot, like a trail of bread crumbs, leading the viewer to an ultimate payoff. No crumbs here. Not even a morsel. This film not only loses you, but it starves you to death. I’m not sure if Ti is trying to parody films like "Black Christmas" and "Halloween," or if he thought he was producing a nostalgic homage, but it fails to entertain in either case.
Carpenter and Depalma were hinged on studying auteurs such as Hitchock. They were copying an originator, whereas Ti West is a carbon copy of a copy. There’s a generational fade here.
One of the most baffling scenes in this movie comes when the protagonist is about to open a door upstairs. She’s distracted from prying, and for some reason West decides to show us what’s behind the door anyway. Why does he choose to do this? I don’t know! Probably because he saw it on SciFi channel’s “Scare Tactics.” Either way, this choice is the cinematic equivalent of AIDS.
I’ve gotten into several arguments with people I can only assume are viral marketers being paid to tout this film as the calling card for the new horror genius on the block. The most common complaint from detractors of this film is that nothing happens in this film for almost 80 fucking minutes. This usually prompts the hilarious defense that “Nothing is SUPPOSED to happen! That’s the point!"
Bitch, if that were the point Samantha would have gotten paid, gone home, and masturbated while looking into the camera, THE END. If West had actually had the film end without any sort of big finale I probably would have been blown away by the swerve. Instead, we get some tacked on "Rosemary's Baby" bullshit. Seriously, fuck this movie. If you want to see a kick ass movie about killer Satanists, check out "Race With The Devil," which probably rocked Ti West's mom when she was pregnant with him, and that is why he was born retarded. Check it out:
And if you’re wondering what this is doing on my blog, well, they just released this movie on VHS, because “that’s campy.