“The House of the Devil”
Theatrical release 10/30/2009
Written & Directed by Ti West
The House of the Devil is a 2009 horror film written and filmed to look like a late 1970’s era horror movie. West used many filming techniques from the 1970’s and some vintage equipment as well. The result is very authentic. As a child of horror movies from the 70’s and 80’s, this film really appealed to me. I could very well picture this playing on a chilly October evening in the late 70’s.
Every shot is designed to create tension and an impending sense of dread. The score punctuates several big scares in the film. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t white knuckle through a scene or two. That’s the whole point, right?
College sophomore, Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue) is looking for an apartment since her slob of a roommate is constantly having sex and being a general disturbance at all hours of the day and night. She meets with a renter and agrees upon the terms. Short of cash and desperate to move out, Samantha calls a flyer asking for a babysitter. Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan) agrees to meet her at the student center immediately, but never shows.
Later that night, Noonan calls and leaves a message with Samantha’s roommate. When Sam calls him back he is apologetic for standing her up and offers her $100 to babysit that night. Being short on cash, she reluctantly agrees and her friend Megan (Greta Gerwig) drives her to the house in the country. Megan is instantly spooked by the creepy appearance and mannerisms of Noonan. He admits to Samantha that he lied to her about the babysitting. He really needs her to keep an eye out for his elderly mother. Samantha balks at the idea, but agrees once the $100 fee is bumped to $400 for four hours of her time. Megan leaves after scolding Samantha sternly for her insistence to stay.
Megan stops in the country to smoke a cigarette, only to be terrified by a lone man who offers her a light. He makes small talk and asks her if she is the babysitter. She tells him she isn’t and he immediately pulls a gun and shoots her in the face. He sits down inside the blood-splattered car and takes the cigarette from her dead hand and smokes it.
Back at the house, Samantha meets Mrs. Noonan (Mary Woronov) and the couple leaves for their plans involving the lunar eclipse which is already underway. Mr. Noonan urges her to order a pizza if she gets hungry. Samantha is bored in the large Victorian home and begins to explore. She puts her headphones on an dances through the house, checking out each room along the way. She doesn’t check on one room which we see has recently murdered people lying on top of a satanic pentagram drawn on the floor. She eventually breaks a vase as she dances and becomes increasing less comfortable in the home. Her pizza arrives, and after eating it she becomes sick. Her pizza was poisoned. She passes out.
When she wakes up, she is bound on top of another satanic circle surrounded by candles. The Noonans enter the room with their son, the man who killed Megan. The hooded figures watch as a deformed priestess enters the circle and draws a pentagram on her forehead and stomach with blood. The priestess pierces her wrist and lets her blood drain into a horned chalice, and pours it into Samantha’s mouth. In a fury of panic, she manages to break free, scratching the deformed woman and stabbing Mr. Noonan.
She races upstairs and trips over Megan’s bloody body. She dials 911, but drops the phone when she begins to have powerful hallucinations. Noonan’s son follows her upstairs and they struggle. She claws one of his eyes out before he shoots her in the arm. As he gets closer to her, she blindly slashes at him with a kitchen knife, cutting his throat. He dies in the hallway as his mother approaches. She corners Samantha and tells her that it’s already too late and that everything “will work in spite of you.”
As Mrs. Noonan faces the window, praying, Samantha stabs her in the back, killing her. Samantha, now totally soaked in blood, manages to escape the home. Mr. Noonan follows. She runs into a graveyard and Noonan calmly talks to her. He tells Samantha that this is her destiny. Now hearing voices all around her, and with black tendrils spreading across her stomach, she points the gun to her own head and fires. Noonan yells as she hit the ground.
The last shot of the film shows Samantha in the hospital, unmoving and bandaged heavily. A nurse injects some meds into her IV and tells the unresponsive girl that things will be okay “for both of you”, as she pats her stomach lightly.