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Ti West
Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Greta Gerwig, AJ Bowen, Dee Wallace, Heather Robb
Writing Credits:
Ti West

Talk on the phone. Finish your homework. Watch T.V. DIE!

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 ...

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$10.676 thousand on 3 screens.
Domestic Gross
$100.659 thousand.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Stereo 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 95 minutes
Price: $27.98
Release Date: 2/2/2010

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director/Editor Ti West and Actor Jocelin Donahue
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director/Editor Ti West, Producers Larry Fessenden and Peter Phok, and Sound Designer Graham Reznick
• “In The House of the Devil” Featurette
• “Behind The House of the Devil” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Trailer


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The House Of The Devil (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 3, 2010)

A conscious throwback to the horror flicks of the 1970s and early 1980s, 2009’s The House of the Devil introduces us to college sophomore Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue). Fed up with her annoying roommate, she takes on her first solo apartment.

In need of money to pay the bills, Samantha pursues a babysitting gig that leads her to meet the Ulman family: Vincent (Tom Noonan) and Vivian (Mary Woronov). It turns out that Vincent actually needs a caretaker for his mother, not someone to watch a child. This doesn’t sit well with Samantha, and Vincent gives off a seriously creepy vibe, but he agrees to pay her so much money that she agrees to the gig. Bad move.

Some people bemoan all the quick-cutting and fast movement of modern films. If you fall into that camp, Devil is the flick for you! If it moved any more slowly, it’d be a still image.

I’m all for deliberate pacing and the build-up of atmosphere, but Devil takes things to a sluggish extreme. Except for one quick murder scene, almost literally nothing happens for the film’s first 70 minutes or so. Samantha gets the job, haggles over her price, and then hangs out in a big spooky house.

What happens while she does her caretaking duty? She wanders into this room and wanders into that room. She goes up the stairs and she goes down the stairs. She eats some pizza, shoots some pool and dances to the Fixx.

Perhaps some will view this as a delicious set-up for the horror to come, but I don’t. One man’s unbearable tension is another man’s unbearable tedium, and I fall into the latter camp. Yes, the creation of nervous dread is good, but not when nothing else happens and we must wait forever to get any kind of payoff.

When the movie does finally enter actual “horror mode”, it’s not even remotely worth that wait. Indeed, the “scary scenes” are much closer to laughable than frightful. We see a lot of blood and hear a lot of screaming, but nothing truly horrific or even vaguely upsetting occurs. The film’s climax proves to be utterly anti-climatic.

Devil comes as an odd kind of period piece. Not only does it consciously evoke the styles of the late 70s/early 80s, but it’s also set in that era; I’d guess it’s supposed to be 1983. I suppose the filmmakers figured we’d buy an 80s-looking movie better if they set it in that period, and I’d bet they figured the choice of era would lend it a kind of verisimilitude. Allegedly based on true events, we can more easily accept the purported reality if the story occurs in the past. (In his commentary, director Ti West admits that the “based on true events” claim is pretty much a lie.)

Nonetheless, the film’s style feels like nothing more than a gimmick ala Soderbergh’s The Good German. Yes, Devil looks and feels a lot like a movie from the early 1980s – so what? If I wanted to watch an 80s horror flick, I’d rent one.

Of course, if Devil wasn’t such a bore, then I wouldn’t mind the period gimmickry. After all, Chinatown was a pretty self-conscious throwback as well, but that didn’t make it less enjoyable. Chinatown was an effective telling of an interesting story, though, unlike the turgid, dull Devil.

The DVD Grades: Picture C-/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

The House of the Devil appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While not bad, the transfer usually looked pretty average.

Sharpness was up and down, as the movie exhibited inconsistent levels of clarity. Overall, close-ups boasted good definition but wider shots suffered from mild to moderate softness. Some light edge enhancement didn’t help, and artifacts made the image a bit messy at times. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but mild/moderate edge enhancement appeared throughout the movie.

Source flaws were an occasional issue. Devil came with a lot of grain; it was thick enough to be a distraction at times. However, I didn’t really hold this against the transfer, as I figured the heavy grain was a stylistic choice as well as one that resulted from the use of Super 16mm stock. Sporadic instances of specks and marks also materialized, though not in a pervasive manner. I wondered if these were also intentional ala Grindhouse, but since they cropped up infrequently – and most of them appeared very early – I didn’t think so. The print defects weren’t a major concern, but they did appear more than expected.

Colors weren’t much of a concern in this fairly monochromatic affair. Given the nature of the story, I didn’t expect dynamic hues, and the film tended toward a subdued brownish look much of the time. What colors we found seemed decent but unexceptional. Blacks tended to appear somewhat loose and inky, though, and shadows were often too dark. That was an issue given the fact that so much of the film took place in low-light interiors. All in all, there was enough positive material on display for a “C-”, but it wasn’t an inspiring presentation.

Though not especially ambitious, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Devil seemed more satisfactory. Like many horror movies, it mostly went with creepy atmosphere. A few action/scare sequences brought the track to life in a more active manner, but these were infrequent. Instead, the mix usually focused on general environment, and that side of things worked well. The audio used the speakers in a natural manner that created a good soundscape.

Music also featured nice stereo imaging, and the surrounds contributed to the ambience. The back channels didn’t have a lot to do, but that added to the film’s aura. The whole package connected together in a reasonably involving manner.

Audio quality was positive. Music showed nice range and clarity, while effects offered good accuracy and punch. The smattering of loud scenes showed solid definition, and they lacked distortion. Speech was also concise and natural. Nothing here dazzled, but it achieved its modest goals.

We find a good array of extras here, and these start with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from writer/director/editor Ti West and actor Jocelin Donahue. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at pacing and story, cast and performances, sets and locations, music and editing, period details, costumes, and production design.

West does most of the talking here; Donahue isn’t an infrequent participant and she adds some good notes, but she doesn’t have nearly as much to say. West gives us a pretty good overview of the production, as he digs into a mix of informative subjects. The track lacks the spark that would make it truly absorbing, but it covers enough bases to merit a listen.

For the second commentary, we hear from Ti West, producers Larry Fessenden and Peter Phok, and sound designer Graham Reznick. All four sit together for this running, screen-specific chat that examines… pretty much the same topics discussed in the prior chat. This one adds a few more technical details like camerawork and sound design, but expect similar subject matter.

And also expect a lot of the same information. West still talks a lot and he repeats more than a few details from the previous commentary. This one also suffers from poor recording; in an ironic twist, sound designer Reznick sits too far from the mic and is almost inaudible at times. While the commentary isn’t a total dud, it tends to be redundant and not especially compelling.

Two featurettes follow. In The House of the Devil runs 13 minutes, 33 seconds and takes us to the set. It includes few comments from the filmmakers; instead, it mostly pairs rough “behind the scenes” footage with music and raw audio. I normally like this sort of material, but I don’t think “In” reveals much of interest. We get some good remarks from the script supervisor, but most of the shots seem pedestrian and don’t really give us an intriguing glimpse of the production.

Behind The House of the Devil goes for four minutes, 41 seconds and features notes from West, Donahue, and actors AJ Bowen, Mary Woronov, Tom Noonan and Gretta Gerwig. “Behind” throws out various thoughts about story, style, and characters. “Behind” is too brief to tell us much, so don’t expect to learn anything memorable here.

Three Deleted Scenes fill a total of six minutes 40 seconds. We find “Sam’s Side of the Phone Call” (2:36), “Megan’s Side of the Phone Call” (3:01) and “Mother in the Attic” (1:03). The first two are essentially the same scene but shot in two different places. “Phone Call” offers superfluous exposition that would’ve made a slow movie even more tedious. “Mother” provides a little uneventful footage of that creepy character.

A few ads open the disc. We get clips for Deadgirl, Plague Town, Stake Land and Bitter Feast. The trailer for House also appears.

I’ve read a bunch of positive reviews for The House of the Devil. I can’t help but wonder if those folks saw a different movie than the one I watched – or if they just can’t tell the difference between “deliberate pacing” and “mind-numbing boredom”. I found nothing but the latter in this slow, tedious and painful exercise in dullness. The DVD provides mediocre – but appropriate – picture and audio as well as a moderately positive set of supplements. I have no big complaints about this release, but the movie itself couldn’t possibly be more boring and tiresome.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1.25 Stars Number of Votes: 4
0 3:
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