The House of the Devil is an old school horror film that gets it all right. The tone of the film is an 80’s era horror film and in a brilliant thought-stroke, the film is made to look as if it were from that time period as well. The title sequence (Roman numerals and all) sets the antique horror film tone for The House of the Devil and is complimented by washed-out film stock. I was immediately reminded of the fake, period piece trailer Don’t from Grindhouse (2007) while watching this film. Both were constructed to look as though they were made decades ago. Producers really paid attention to detail in The House of the Devil, right down to the big brick cassette players, paper plates in fast food restaurants, Coke cups, and the rotary telephones.
After the film begins, the viewer may soon forget that they are watching a film made in 2009. That is how complete and effective the illusion is.
There are no cheap shock cuts or loud noises designed to scare, no torture horror in this film. What the viewer finds is plausible horror and a plausible situation (during the era of horror films this film is supposed to be a part of). The main protagonist , Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue), is relatable, like most horror film heroines that eventually find themselves in extraordinary situations. That situation, advertised at the beginning of the film, is a satanic cult. There are surprises along Samantha’s journey, one of which being what the cult, Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan), Ms. Ulman (Mary Woronov), and Victor Ulman (AJ Bowen), hopes to gain from all of their nefarious activities. The viewer probably won’t see it coming because its never even hinted at until the last scene in the film.
There is a scene where Samantha happily calls her friend Megan about the new apartment she has just scored. The scene is shown through two perspectives and there is a 360 shot in the scene.
There is also a short scene with a deformed individual in a basement (I think).
In The House of the Devil
This is the Making Of with the crew setting up scenes and lighting. You watch hair being styled and the setting up of shots for the film. They even zoom in on a can of Cobweb Effect. The viewer is shown fake blood applied to some of the dead people that turn up in the film. The Script Supervisor shows up and describes what the notations on the script mean: Line, swiggle, line. This translates into what you see for a particular shot on the page and what you don’t. The gun shot scene is set up, fake blood, fake body and all. This doc is directed by Graham Reznick, the sound designer for the film.
Behind The House of the Devil
All the principal cast take part in this extra. They talk about the communication break down in film, how the 80’s time period made that possible. They talk about satanic cults and the earlier 80’s.
There are two Commentary tracks available: One with Ti West and Jocelin Donahue and one with Ti West and Producers and Crew from the film.
The first commentary talks about Connecticut, Dee Wallace’s spiritual side, how they stayed in an 1800’s hotel, the Yankee Peddler, how the music for the film was written by Ti West’s high school friend Mike Armstrong, the beginning of the film and the title sequence.
The second commentary discusses the yellow’s in the title sequence and how it reminds the producer of Rosemary’s Baby. How they finished the film on 35mm film and they discuss more Dee Wallace’s stories. They discuss the copyright in Roman numerals. Ti West says how he was charmed by TV movies and liked the old-fashioned horror sound in the film. Ti is also a big fan of The Changling.
For an indie horror film, there are more extras for The House of the Devil than you might expect.