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A Wet Dream For Horror Fans: Ti West's "House of The Devil"

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire April 30, 2009 at 5:31AM

Ti West's "The House of the Devil" is a wet dream for horror fans, but that should not limit its audience. The classical structure slowly builds tension before erupting into a decisively gory finish, harkening back to a smarter and more nuanced era of spooky storytelling. West's last feature, the highly experimental "Trigger Man," challenged audiences to remain patient for roughly half the running time before the aimless plot gave way to a massive slaughterfest. "Devil" also takes its time, but maintains a delightfully creepy aura throughout, while also functioning equally well as a low key study of youth alienation.
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Ti West's "The House of the Devil" is a wet dream for horror fans, but that should not limit its audience. The classical structure slowly builds tension before erupting into a decisively gory finish, harkening back to a smarter and more nuanced era of spooky storytelling. West's last feature, the highly experimental "Trigger Man," challenged audiences to remain patient for roughly half the running time before the aimless plot gave way to a massive slaughterfest. "Devil" also takes its time, but maintains a delightfully creepy aura throughout, while also functioning equally well as a low key study of youth alienation.

West's leading lady, the talented Jocelin Donahue, plays Samantha, a young college student strapped for cash. Thanks to the efforts of her upbeat friend (Greta Gerwig), Samantha lands a babysitter gig at an ancient mansion in the woods. The job, however, turns out to be a lot crazier than she expected. The eerie man responsible for hiring her (Tom Noonan, appropriately deadpan) admits he has no kids, only a strangely absent mother. His real motives don't emerge until the fast-paced finale, allowing the aura to toy around with the viewers' imagination.

As Samantha wanders around the vacant mansion, West develops a constant sense of dread, which forces us to pay close attention to the character, grow comfortable with her -- and worry for her safety. (As Satanic worshipping creeps into the story, that becomes a reasonable concern.) West's style culls from the vibe of late 1980s horror (and subtly sets the movie in that period), but it's his authentic filmmaking skill that makes "Devil" such an enthralling experience. Unlike the miscalculation of "Grindhouse," West's movie relies less on homage than on narrative refinement. His unseen sequel to Eli Roth's "Cabin Fever" lies on Lionsgate's cutting room floor, but "Devil" indicates the director will continue to churn out top-notch work.

This article is related to: New York, Reviews