MOVIE: The House of the Devil (2009)

I saw the trailer for this film in the theater recently and was pretty intrigued by it.  For one thing, I love a good scary movie set in a spooky house, and for another, if it stars Tom Noonan, I can be sure it’s going to give me the creeps.  Because, and I mean no disrespect to you, Mr. Noonan — you are an excellent actor and everything, sir — but dude, you are friggin’ creeparoo.  Good god, y’all.

When I saw that this movie, which is in theaters now, could also be rented from Amazon via my much-beloved Roku box, I resisted at first.  They’ve started to offer newly released (to theaters) movies periodically at Amazon and through other On Demand services, and while it’s a nice idea, they cost about the same as seeing the movie on the big screen.  Given the equal option, I’d rather make the trek out.

But the other night I found myself home alone, in the mood, and without transportation, so I decided to give it a whirl.  Big mistake.

As it turns out, I think this movie can probably only be appreciated on the big screen.  In my opinion, the main character of this film is the house itself — it’s certainly not any of the actual people, who are just ridiculously dull horror flick clichés — and on the small screen, the house isn’t as great as I think maybe it could’ve been.  Maaaaaybe it could’ve been.  It’s big and spooky and full of interesting things, but they were hard to see on my small, dark screen.  Blown up huge in a theater, I think the house would’ve created a better feeling of creepy enclosure.  And had it pulled that off, it might’ve made the first 80 minutes of this 96-minute movie (during which almost nothing of any real import happens) effectively boring instead of excruciatingly boring.

The story is about a young woman named Samantha (Jocelin Donahue, an 8.5 on the Blah Scale for me, I’m afraid), who has taken a babysitting job for the evening in a big house in the middle of nowhere in the woods.

First mistake (on Samantha’s part):  Location, location, location!

When she knocks on the door, who should answer but Tom Noonan!  (And let me tell you this, if I ever go to a big spooky house in the middle of nowhere in the woods and Tom Friggin’ Noonan answers the door, I am running in the other direction without so much as a “Loved you in The Man with One Red Shoe!”).  He explains that, sorry, he lied in the ad for the job — he doesn’t have any children.  What he really needs is someone to watch his elderly mother for four hours.  And he’s desperate.  He’ll pay anything.  How’s $400?

Second mistake:  Sound insanely too good to be true?  Then it is both of those things.  Too good to be true.  AND INSANE.

Third mistake:  Creepy guy starts talking Mommy?  Time. To. Go.

Samantha takes the job and we then join her for the next 70 minutes as she pokes around the house, completely  bored.  And while I could see the filmmakers were trying to use this quiet time with dramatic purpose — to lull us a bit, to let the dark walls of the house sort of slowly creep in around us — it was just way too much lulling for me, over all.  I was practically lulled straight into a nap, frankly.

The only things keeping me awake were the many, many elements that made no sense.  Let’s start with the fact the house seemed primarily lit by the coming-through-the-windows blast of one hell of a bright moon.  Why is that an issue?  Because the whole reason Samantha was needed as a babysitter in the first place was so the Noonans could go watch the impending total lunar eclipse.  (Apparently, they needed to drive into the city for that, because everybody knows you can’t see astronomical phenomena from way out in the middle of nowhere in the woods.  (Wait, what?))

Another thing that made me tip my head “Oh, really?”-style was when  Samantha knocks over a vase and then dashes immediately to the very spot in the house where the broom and dustpan are kept.  Nice trick!  I can’t even find those two items in my own house, and I live there!  And then, while sweeping up the broken glass, she’s suddenly drawn to a closet down the hall.  Why?  Because opening closets in spooky houses is SPOOOOOKY!  Opening the door, creeeeeeeak, she finds, gasp!  The fur coats Noonan’s wife had said were in the basement!  OH MY GOD, SHE LIED ABOUT THE FUR COATS!

Wait, I’m sorry.  Why is that. . . oh, nevermind.

When the action finally does start — it turns out Noonan and his family are religious wackos who want to sacrifice Samantha or knock her up with a devil baby or something  — it simply doesn’t do a good enough job to make it feel like all that waiting was worth it.  Samantha does get to run around in a white shift soaked completely in the blood they were trying to make her drink — that’s always good, creepy fun.  But for the most part, the last 15 minutes are just a silly chase scene through the house featuring three idiot bad guys and their extremely dumb prey.  It’s like an amalgam of every dumb horror-movie-character mistake ever made, and despite the fact it was clear this film was supposed to be an homage, of sorts, to 80’s horror flicks, I don’t think this was being done on purpose.

Examples:  Samantha runs up the stairs instead of out the front door.  She knocks out the guy with the gun, but doesn’t TAKE the gun.  The bad lady turns her back on a subdued Sam without first disarming her.  The bad guy talks first, plans to shoot later.  Eighth mistake.  Ninth mistake.  Tenth.   I would’ve been hoarse from yelling at every one of these characters for fifteen straight minutes, as they compounded incredibly stupid error upon incredibly stupid error, but to be honest, I just didn’t CARE.

This was the best you could do, Ti West?  I don’t believe you.  I just do not believe this is the best you could do.

Dude.

Is all.

Save yourselves.

(Except, of course, now I totally want to see it on the big screen to see if it really makes any difference in the mood.  It might, you know.  It might even be worth another $7.50 to find out.  If I do, I’ll be sure to report back.)

Zee endingzee.

[Prequeue at Netflix | Watch trailer]

Genre:  Horror
Cast:  Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Greta Gerwig, Mary Woronov, Dee Wallace

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6 Responses to “MOVIE: The House of the Devil (2009)”

  1. Liz Says:

    Wait – did you yell at the screen or not? I totally yell at TV and computer screens all the time, and would do it at the movies, too, except a) I hardly ever go to the movies, and b) my husband would skedaddle for sure! My advice – which you didn’t ask for, but I’m giving anyway – is: don’t waste your money going to see this thing in the theatre. If you can go see it for like a couple of dollars, it might be worth it, but if it was that dumb, I bet it will still be that dumb, but bigger!

  2. alisaj29 Says:

    Meg, I we agree on another movie, OMG!! I knew the path it was taking 15mins into the movie. What about the ENTIRE sceen w/her orderng the pizza over the phone. What is the whole town in on the devil worship? And was she ordering from the same pizza pace from the beginning of the movie, where she and her friend said the pizza sucked??? There is one night of my life that I won’t be able to get back.

  3. megwood Says:

    Wait, I’m confused about your pizza comment. I kind of lost my concentration when the pizza finally arrived, so I missed this part. But my assumption had been that the number they’d left her for pizza was actually the phone number of the bad guy who shot her friend. Is that wrong? And then I was convinced the pizza had been drugged, but I can’t remember why I thought that now. Maybe I just thought that because that was the only thing that actually MADE SENSE when it came to the point of the elaborate pizza plot to begin with. But making sense did not really seem to be this feature’s primary focus. Alas. I still want to see it in the theater, though. But it doesn’t seem to be playing anywhere around here, darn!

  4. alisaj29 Says:

    Actuall I think you are right, I was confusing the pizza calls w/her calls to her best friend. And you are right, the bad guy drugged her pizza when it was delivered. But that begs the question, what happened to the poor pizza delivery kid, OR does the bad guy work for the pizza place (Noonan kept repeating to her to order pizza) so that they can lure women in for their rituals?

    Watching the movie on the big screen – Do you have any independant threatres near you, or a sort of “town” movie threatre, you know that ones that get the movies after they’ve been in the major threatres. One of them may be running hte movie.

  5. TC Says:

    I loved the homage and look of the movie, but other than that it was just another dud.

    I did like the ripoff of the Cars “Moving In Stereo” that was attempted early on in the movie.

  6. SteveD Says:

    Cars – moving in stereo!!! That song immediately came to my mind when I was watching this movie, I knew they had ripped off the cars, but I thought I was be the only person in the world who would recognize it. Same synth sound, same key, almost the exact same melody – in fact, you can sing along moving in stereo and it will perfectly fit that music!! Gotta admit though, the music did fit the mood very well.

    And from somebody who lived their glory days int he 80s, overall they did a very good job with the 80s scene and vibe, most of the right props, clothes, hair, etc. They only had a few mistakes, and for the young directors and crew that produced this, whom weren’t even born yet, they did a very good overall.

    Yes it was simple movie, but that’s why I liked it. Of course, the main character was foolish for not leaving, especially when there were a number of blatant inconsistencies in the old man’s story (e.g. when he took the main character aside and said he wasn’t prepared to pay for 2 people, how then would he be able to pay her double, then tripe, then quadruple her $100 fee??) That was I was unhappy when her friend, whom was being smart, got killed. I would’ve much preferred if she was the hero whom saved the main character in the end. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to make my own movie 🙂

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