The Guest

February 19, 2015

The House of the Devil

FUN

The House of the Devil – Fun

Like I mentioned in my review of “The Guest,” I love the 1980s, especially 80s horror, but one genre always kind of eluded me; the devil-worshiping/possession genre. I simply don’t find those types of films very scary or unnerving. This goes double for, get ready for it, “The Exorcist.” I simply don’t get the appeal of what so many people call “the scariest film ever made.” I also think the market has been flooded with these possession/evil house/devil worshiping found footage type films, and while they are low budget, and make a ton of money because we have enough sheep who go to the theater to waste their money with lackluster fare like that. But, every once in a while I’ll take the advice of a friend, or in this case a blog (thanks Slaughter Film) and go out on a limb and watch something I normally wouldn’t, and than I wonder to myself why it took so long to finally get around to this movie. That movie is 2009’s “The House of the Devil.” Directed by Ti West, who has also worked on the anthology series “V/H/S” and directed “The Sacrament” brings to glory of late 1970s and early 80s Gothic horror to life by recreating a film that is suspenseful and a crap ton of fun.

“House” is the tale of Samantha, a struggling college student looking to move out of her dorm room that is constantly being used by her over-sexed roommate. Desperate for money after finding the house of her dreams, Sam calls about a babysitting job the night of a lunar eclipse. After losing hope on the job, she receives a call from Mr. Ulman, the man who placed the babysitting ad. Dragging her friend Megan along, Sam accepts the job and heads to the Ulman residence. Upon arrival, as the viewer, you already have the sense that something isn’t quite right about Mr. Ulman, who is played to creepy perfection by consummate creeper, Tom Noonan. Creeped out, Sam is about to leave, but now desperate, Ulman tells Sam to name her price. She’s seizes the moment knowing that her new house is on the line. The film progresses with Sam exploring the house, hearing noises, and finally learning the secret the Ulmans have been hiding all along. To spoil the third act would be a disservice.

What works so well in “House” is the look of the film. The opening credits are something right out of a Wes Craven film, mixed with Hammer Horror, and a dash of Italian giallo. The hair styles are to the era, the score is reminiscent of something Ric Ocasek. However, even with all of these 80s elements, the film is still very contemporary and can fit into any era.

The one gripe I see that people could have is the pacing of the “House.” There isn’t a whole lot of “action” until about an hour into the film, but just like the films of yore, the build-up is part of the fun of this film. However, in this day and age of instant gratification, jump scares, and found-footage dredge (which is ironic since I actually enjoyed “V/H/S”) it’s refreshing to see a movie like “House” but I”m sure that’s the reason why this film hasn’t gotten much traction outside of die-hard horror fans who have been watching the genre for decades.

Overall, “The House of the Devil” is great and it pains me to think that it took me so long to finally get around to this film. The production design is strong, the acting is believable and likable, and the villains are creepy. It’s everything that you would want in a suspenseful horror film. New school kids beware, this IS your Daddy’s horror film.

Fun Fact: The Church of Satan was founded by Anton LaVey in 1966

February 2, 2015

The Guest

The Guest – Homage

HOMAGE

If anyone knows our site you know we have an unhealthy proclivity for the 1980s. It’s what made us the animals we are today. Ultra-violence, one-liners, and many many more hyphenated phrases came from this glorious decade of excess. What’s even better is that the people who are our age are now directing films and a lot of them have the same sensibilities as we do….what a wonderful world we live in. This brings me to “The Guest” another effort from Adam Wingard who has also worked on “V/H/S” “The ABCs of Death” and “You’re Next.” However, “The Guest” is his strongest effort so far and is a true homage to the 80s thrillers of yesteryear.

The film starts with a shot of a man running from something and, BOOM, title card. You already know this film is going to be good. Next, we meet The Peterson family who have recently lost a member of their family, Caleb, to war. There comes a knock at the door and enter David, the good-looking ex-soldier friend of Caleb who has been tasked with helping the family anyway possible. Rounding out the family, outside of the grieving mother Laura is Spencer, the father, daughter Anna, and bullied son Luke. Upon David’s arrival in town things slowly start happening that both benefit the Peterson family and make them very uncomfortable. As tension reaches a boiling point, both the Petersons and their town will never be the same. Going any further with the story would be a disservice.

I’ll preface before I continue. Yes, there is a story in this film, and it’s rather weak and limited, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. So, “The Guest,” yeah, this movie is awesome. It’s an incredible, earnest throwback to anything made by John Carpenter, namely “Assault in Precinct 13” and the unstoppable force theme of “Halloween.” There are also dashes of “Fear” and “Drive.” What makes the film work, however, is the slow burn of “Guest.” You have a feeling right off the bat that something isn’t quite right with David and just when you think there is a logical explanation, the film takes a turn that isn’t quite expected, and that’s where some people might turn away and write the film off. However, if you know anything about thrillers in the 80s and early 90s, this was par for the course. You expected something ridiculous to happen, and eventually it does, with blood-soaked glee (hey, another hyphenated word).

On to more gloating about this film….the soundtrack. Again, if you love John Carpenter or anything other synth-forward (hyphenated again) 80s soundtrack, again, this is the film for you. I’ll be the first to say that while I love the “Halloween” soundtrack, my favorite Carpenter score is by and far, “Christine.” It’s pulse-pounding, driving, literally, and incredibly unrelenting, very much like the soundtrack for “Guest.” While there are some cheesy bits thrown in, the work by Steve Moore is impeccably 80s and it works with the tone of the film.

If I was to criticize anything from the film, it would be the thin plot, or lack there of a plot. This film is strictly for people well versed in 80s cinema, the pacing, and the style. Adam Wingard is obviously well-versed in what he thinks people wants to see in a throwback piece like this, and while some people might knock the film for that, and I understand, that doesn’t make them right.

After singing the praises of “The Guest” nearly this entire review, is it worth the praise. Well, duh, of course it is. It’s a great throwback film with a style all it’s own and it’s super entertaining. Is it zany and lacks sense, of course it does, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Fun Fact: In the original screenplay, the story took place in Korea and it had far more action, including a car chase that was 50 pages long.  

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