The House Of The Devil review

Rosemary’s babysitter…

Set in the early ’80s – a time when Satanic panic swept America – and reviving a sub-genre that flourished in the late ’60s and first half of the ’70s, The House Of The Devil might have been parodic, satiric or tiresomely postmodern.

Satisfyingly, it settles for being a scary period piece. Opening with a groovy freeze-frame title sequence as student Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) walks down the street listening to The Fixx on her brick-sized Sony Walkman, it builds steadily and effectively, investing daylight scenes with real menace.

Samantha treks around campus, chats to a friend, answers Tom Noonan’s ad for a babysitter (like that’s going to end well) and, come nightfall, finds herself in a secluded Victorian house. She tinkers on the piano, watches TV, orders pizza…

If anything, the build-up is so drawn out, so suspenseful, so full of booming silences and looming widescreen spaces, the denouement can only disappoint.

Chances are, anyone who thinks the Saw franchise cuts it will be bored for the first 83 minutes and let down by the last 10. But the climax, like everything that goes before, honours the traditions and techniques of the films Devil is tapping into.

This, ironically, is a movie that obeys all the rules of a genre that breaks all the rules – and is all the better for it. Director Ti West previously made zombie-bat movie The Roost (crude but fun) and Cabin Fever sequel Spring Fever (hard to tell – it was butchered by the studio).

He must have made a Faustian pact because The House Of The Devil is a huge leap forward. It marks him as a real talent.

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