Monday, February 8, 2010

House of the Devil Gave Me Blue Balls

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It seems like every other horror movie that comes out these days is meant to be a throwback/homage to horror movies of the past - at least the directors fancy them so. While many attempt it, very few movies pull this off and actually look and feel as if they came from a bygone time period. Not only does Ti West's House of the Devil (just released on DVD, Blu-ray, and even VHS) admirably pull this off, but it is without question the best and most convincing throwback ever made, fitting perfectly alongside flicks the likes of Rosemary's Baby and other devil themed genre greats. I shit you not, if you would've handed me the VHS and told me that this was a movie that was made in the late 70's/early 80's, I would've had no reason to doubt you and i'd fully fall for the trickery - it's that damn convincing in every aspect. From the clothing, to the hair, to the music, to the camera work, to the lead female character talking to herself to explain plot points, to the opening/ending credits sequences, and even to the old school style Coca Cola drink cups seen at a pizza joint, House of the Devil truly feels like a lost film from an era of horror cinema that we all love and for that, it gets serious brownie points from me. But all that aside, unclouded by my admiration for writer/director West pulling off such an amazing and respectable feat and unbiased by the fact that he put the film out on VHS(!), is this lost 80's horror flick any good?

Yes. It is very fuckin' good. I was pinned to my couch for the entire hour and a half runtime and could not look away from the screen for one second. There is a review quote on the back cover of the DVD from USA Today that says, (House of the Devil is) "Unbearably suspensful" - I couldn't have said it better myself. House of the Devil pushes the suspense to its absolute limit to the point that you can barely even handle it and I loved every second of it. The dread and impending horror looms around every corner, throughout every frame of the movie, but, save for one moment that I can think of, it's kept at bay until the last 10 or so minutes of the movie, at which point your frayed nerves are at a fever pitch. The entire brilliant first hour and 20 minutes is a build up to these final closing minutes, and that's precisely where my problem with House of the Devil comes in.

Don't get me wrong, I love a slown burn horror flick more than the next guy and I was HEAVILY into that slow burn aspect of this movie, that's not the problem I had with it. The issue I had is that with such a long, slow, and drawn out buildup to the end of the movie, the end of that movie needs a serious payoff - in my opinion, House of the Devil does not deliver that payoff. It builds builds builds and then just kinda fizzles out and ends, never really giving me what I wanted or was waiting for the entire movie. That one moment that West seemed to be holding off for as long as he possibly could never came. Maybe it's my own fault for expecting some big or shocking revelation/conclusion, but I couldn't help but feel slighted and cheated by the movie when it left me high and dry after all the time and energy I put into it, not to mention after how much I was digging it. It's as if I was having really great sex with the hottest chick in the world (aka my girlfriend Jen, of course) for 90 minutes and then right when I was about to finish, she got up and walked out of the room. Once more I say, House of the Devil gave me blue balls of the most painful kind. Again, maybe it's just a case of me expecting too much, but the whole movie goes with a "what the fuck is gonna happen, I can't wait any longer!" premise and thus, I can't help but feel that a "holy shit, I can breathe again but I can't pick my jaw up off the floor!" ending was required. Especially given the fact that we all pretty much knew where the story was headed (it's all but given away on the DVD cover and in the opening title card for the movie), I really expected something totally different than what one would normally expect from such a film. What I got was a lackluster and fairly generic ending, albeit one that remained true to the films it was homaging.

But the thing is, I highly enjoyed that buildup and though the ending didn't deliver, that didn't kill the movie for me. Everything that came before it was so good that I quite frankly would've probably looked past even the worst of endings and still loved the movie (High Tension, anyone?). Don't get the wrong idea, the ending to the flick isn't bad, it's just that I feel like we as an audience deserved a little bit more. Oh well, House of the Devil is still a really awesome movie that i'd highly recommend to anyone, no matter the format you choose to watch it on, and Ti West has firmly planted himself on my radar. Up next from West, Cabin Fever 2 on February 16th. Should be quite the departure from this one and I for one can't wait.

I can't end this post without giving serious props to the whole cast of House of the Devil, who all do incredible jobs. Genre legends Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, and newcomer Jocelin Donahue, especially. The Jessica Harper-esque Donahue feels like she was plucked right out of the 80's and she's one of the main reasons the whole throwback feel really works. Brilliant bit of casting with that one and a great performance.

16 comments:

ThePersonYouBenefitFromKnowing said...

Well, I don't know what it feels like to have blue balls...but I think I understand haha. I do agree with you, I was glued to the tv, could not take my attention away, and loving every second. Every 5 seconds I was expecting the scare, and it never really came. All in all, I enjoyed it and will definitely own it. It really was the most convincing throwback I have seen in ages. Nice review sir!

Johnny said...

Funny you say that because, according to Wikipedia, women can get blue balls too (although it's obviously not called blue balls).

"Women can also experience discomfort due to unrelieved vasocongestion as their pelvic area also becomes engorged with blood during sexual arousal. They can experience pelvic heaviness (aka blue walls, blue labia, blue box, or blue curtains) and aching if they do not reach orgasm. The general term pelvic congestion refers to such pain as it occurs in either sex."

But back to House of the Devil!

Pax Romano said...

One of the few films I've seen in recent years that actually shocked me (the "Are you not the babysitter" scene). Loved it!

Cins said...

Now I'm REALLY curious about this one. I was expecting it to be more of a throwback spoof than a serious horror film. Tha alone is pushing this up onto my Netflix cue to the top.
Thanks for the review, Johnny!

Johnny said...

Pax - One of the more shocking scenes in recent years, no doubt!

Chris Hallock said...

I'm surprised you hadn't seen this yet. No screening in your area?

I totally understand being frustrated with what is a bit of an anti-climactic ending. But, damn if I wasn't totally hooked from beginning to end.

I actually got to see this twice in the theater and was wondering how this would go over just chilling in a living room. The tension was unbearable for me, and as you said, the details were perfect to the point of obsession (I know the 80s VERY well).

Good review, man!

Johnny said...

No screenings that I was aware of, although i'm sure there were a few in the city that slipped past me. I could've rented it on demand sometime over the course of the past couple months, but for 7 or something dollars for a single rental, I figured i'd just pre-order the DVD/VHS and watch it when it was released. Kinda glad I waited, because it made it all the more exciting to finally see it!

Wings said...

Johnny liked... no, LOVED it??? I really can't wait to see it now!

the jaded viewer said...

Great review Johnny. Exactly why I gave it 2 out of 4. Wicked slow burn that makes sitting at the library tolerable.

The ending is completely ehhh.

Check out Babysitter Wanted. Same premise different payoff.

Johnny said...

Really dug Babysitter Wanted, which is finally getting a DVD release soon!

Quanthor said...

I climaxed buckets of salty goodness.

I thought the ending was fantastic, I'm not really sure if people were expecting the sky to rain severed limbs while the gates of hell opened to unleash an army of flesh eating demons as Satan ascended to the soil to spear peoples heads off with his pitchfork just before the world exploded into tiny fragments....(breathe, breathe) because I thought it was a very suspensful, scarier than shit, approproiate and gave you that really eerie sensation not too dissimiliar of that's of 'Rosemary's Baby' ending.

I abosolutely adored this flick and I can't wait to see more projects from, West.

The Scarlet Circus Ring Master said...

This was an awesome movie and one that surprised the Hell out of me when I watched it the first time. The characters, mood and story were awesome and it definitely hit the spot at 2 A.M. when I was suffering from writers block!

Carl (ILHM) said...

I had to peek from behind my fingers with this post Johnny, still trying to avoid any impressions on it before seeing it but I LOVE that it successfully hit the throwback vibe it was going for. I am a big fan of HATCHET, but I still felt Adam missed the boat unfortunately.

Jay Amabile said...

omg...i can't wait any longer to see this. Dude...your site is fantastic...I always love stopping by. Always a slew of great posts. I had no idea that he did Cabin Fever 2.

Johnny said...

Jay, thank you so much for the kind words.

Although Ti West did direct Cabin Fever 2, the studio allegedly recut the whole thing and changed his original vision and from what I hear, he wants no part of the movie anymore. Will be interesting to see how it turned out.

B-Movie Becky said...

A perfect way to put it. I felt the same exact way (except I don't have balls of course). I loved the film, but the ending...just felt half-assed and fell completely flat. She escapes from the ropes like it was nothing and I never felt like she was actually in danger in what is supposed to be the most intense part. Oh well. I think it was the best directed film of 09, but sadly, one of the worst endings.