The Horror Film of the Year available on DVD.
Sam (Donahue) is a pretty college sophomore, so desperate to earn some cash for a deposit on an apartment that she accepts a babysitting job even after she finds out there is no baby. Mr. and Mrs. Ulman (cult actors Noonan and Woronov) are the older couple who lure Sam out to their creaky Victorian mansion deep in the woods, just in time for a total lunar eclipse. Megan (Gerwig) is Sam's best friend, who gives her a ride out to the house, and reluctantly leaves her there despite suspecting that something is amiss. Victor (Bowen) at first seems like just a creepy guy lurking around the house, but quickly makes it clear that Sam will end this night in a bloody fight for her life...
2009 Top 10 List Selections:
TimeOut New York
Sound on Sight
At once a sly tribute to '80s-era grind-house cinema and a remarkable exercise in suspense, writer-director Ti West's House of the Devil
is a terrific--and terrifying--horror film that can be enjoyed by genre fans and outsiders alike. West's premise hinges on the "Satanic panic" that gripped America during the Reagan era--in a nutshell, the urban legend posited that secret devil cults were kidnapping and sacrificing individuals by the thousands--and melds it with the tried-and-true babysitter in an old dark house scenario. The house in question is the property of the Ulmans (cult faves Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov), and the babysitter (newcomer Jocelin Donahue) is needed to simply keep an eye on things--and an unseen mother upstairs--until midnight, when, coincidentally, a total eclipse will occur. But the chills that ensue--and there are plenty--are driven more by slow-building atmosphere than by the bloody effects that sum up '80s shocks. That's not to say that there isn't gore on display, but it's not the film's raison d'être; neither are the nostalgic trappings, which are kept to a tasteful minimum. The end result is a genuinely unsettling horror effort that brands West as an indie director who's more than capable of moving up to the majors. The disc includes two informative commentary tracks, the first by West and Donahue, and the other with West, producers Larry Fessenden (The Last Winter
) and Peter Phok, and sound designer Graham Reznick; there's also a pair of making-of featurettes and three deleted scenes, one of which, involving the Ulmans' mother, is worth a look. The original trailer for House of the Devil
, as well as spots for other Dark Sky releases, round out the extras. --Paul Gaita