Monday, November 23, 2009

devil gate drive.

It gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside when people go out of the way to suggest things (other than to fuck off obviously) to you, so on the recommendation of the lovely Screamstress and the manly Mr. Dissolved I popped this little gem in my film slot t'other night.

The House of The Devil (2009).
Dir: Ti West.
Cast: Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Dame Mary of Woronov, Greta Gerwig, AJ Bowen and Dee Wallace.

I spy Norman Price's handiwork.

Button nosed and boyish hipped beauty Samantha (Donahue, last seen covered in dirt in the JT Petty classic The Burrowers) is just a normal, everyday college girl trying to make her way in life, juggling with her coursework and saddled with a man-faced whore of a room mate whilst trying to make ends meet.

But an end to her flatmate troubles may be in sight when Samantha finds a perfect house for rent. It's homely and the landlady (the fantastic Wallace in a blink and miss it cameo) is desperate to give Samantha a chance.

The only problem is that she can't afford to pay the rent.

Aw, it's heartbreaking I know.

Heading back to campus with a heavy heart (and a nice line in knitwear) Sam notices a flyer advertising for a babysitter pinned to the notice board.

It doesn't pay much but it'll help towards her dream house (note: dream house, not devil house) so Sam calls the number.

The phone is answered by the softly spoken Mr. Viv Ulman (genre giant Noonan from The Monster Squad, Manhunter and Robocop 2 amongst others) who quickly accepts her offer and arranges to pick her up so she can get acquainted with the wee bairn within the hour.

Nothing like being keen I guess.

Rushing excitedly to the front steps of the building Samantha sits and waits.

And waits.

And waits.

Being nice but dim it takes our heroine about 4 hours to realise that she's been stood up by the mysterious Mr. Ulman but being a sassy kinda gal, Samantha cheers herself up by sharing a pizza with her best bud Megan (indie chick type Gerwig who, for once is fully clothed and not playing the trumpet in a bath).

Heading back to her smelly, semen encrusted room and prepared for a night of study and soda, Samantha is surprised to find that Ulman has left her a message apologising for the earlier mix up and is wondering if she's still free for babysitting.

That very night.

It seems that Mr Ulman and his long suffering wife Tracy (Amazonian uber-MiLF Woronov) have some very important business to attend to that can only be done during that evening lunar eclipse. Their regular babysitter has let them down and they'd be more than happy to double Samantha's pay if she'll say yes.

To the job that is, not just say yes randomly on the phone.

"Hat on mah heid!"

Samantha quickly phones Megan for a lift (the Ulman's live in the middle of nowhere, what a surprise) and seeing as she has no pressing nude scenes that night, she agrees to take her pal to the Ulman residence.

Once at the house the girls are met by the peg-legged Viv who, after some stilted small talk about pizza and the price of cheese makes a strange admission.

You see it appears that when Mr. Ulman said he needed a sitting for his wee baby what he really meant was that he needed someone to sit in the house and listen out for his mother in law who, after a stroke (of the non sexual kind obviously) has been left bedridden (sort of) and occasionally requires a cup of tea taken up to her (probably).

"But don't worry" coos Viv, "you won't actually have to make her drinks because she's asleep, so you can spend the night watching teevee and eating pizza".

And on that bombshell he offers Samantha 400 bucks and a Kinder Surprise from the attic.

Beard of evil.

Hesitating whilst she weighs up the pros ($400, free pizza) and cons (this bloke's a nutter, he's insistent that Megan goes home) Samantha is finally persuaded to take the job when Mr. Ulman starts crying and jigging about on his good leg.


But saying that, what could possibly go wrong?

A house (of the Devil) yesterday.

Take a smattering of goodness from the frequently overlooked late 70's/early 80's Demon possession genre, mix with a smidgen of babysitter under siege and marinate with a healthy dose of video boom nostalgia and you're someway to creating something as creepily enjoyable as Ti West's horror love sonnet The House Of The Devil.

Given his previous track record (Cabin Fever 2, a movie that not even Lion's Gate can be arsed releasing? how scary is that?) I'd have usually given a film like this a (very) wide berth had it not been for the wise words of the two aforementioned folk who's choice of films (if not in Mr. Dissolved's case his choice to wear his dads grey Hush Puppies when his feet are sore) I don't baulk at.

And I'm glad I did.

Shot in a perfect copy of that stark cold eighties style, West's genuine admiration for that particular time in film making is obvious from the first frame, capturing as it does (and in perfect detail) the whole look and feel of that bygone time without once descending into kitsch or parody and with neither a wink nor nudge.

It's like a breath of fresh air blowing away the rancid belch breath of Hollywood horror.

"Is that a knife in your hand or
just a strange shaped erection?"

Starting quietly and slowly building toward it's climax, The House of The Devil is more about the nail biting tension and the uncomfortable mood created by the journey rather than the destination and whilst the pay off is somewhat obvious from the start, it's played with enough conviction by the cast as to not really matter.

"Blood in mah mooth!"

A freaky flashback to times gone by for all of us on the wrong side of 30 and a fantastic lesson in minimalist chills for all those poor youngsters force fed a diet of Hostel clones and Halloween remakes.

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