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Monday, July 11, 2011

movies left for dead

The House of the Devil (2009) There are two common opinions of this beautiful-looking horror film set in the mid 1980s. It's either too slow, with a dissapointing ending, or, it is busting with suspense and.....also has a dissapointing ending. A few recent horror films have pulled this off successfully. Hostel and Wolf Creek for example (The House of the Devil is much less violent than those). But if you're going to keep us in Hitchcock-style suspense for an hour, with something catastrophic expected to eventually transpire, at least have it make sense!

As you can probably guess, Devil falls into the occult/demonic/supernatural category. This is all fine and good, but the reason for the director setting it in the mid-80s doesn't sit right. In an interview he notes that devil worship and satanic cults were a hot topic in the 80s and then says "people aren't afraid of the devil anymore." Really? Okay...this is news to ME! Also, the tagline on the movie poster makes no sense for the film: "talk on the phone. Do your homework. Watch TV. Die." That's the best they could do? Must be tongue-in-cheek.

Nonetheless, Devil is artistic about it's setting and doesn't poke fun at the 80s (you know what i'm talking about). The opening credits and music (which sounds like a variation of the Cars' "Moving in Stereo"), make it clear that it wants that feel of the era and wants to be so good at it that you will take 80s culture more seriously (which we should!). Aside from vintage music by Thomas Dolby and the Fixx, there are also visual and plot hints of classics Rosemary's Baby and the little known Alison's Birthday, and possibly the more recent Skeleton Key. Also, there's a brief appearance of an actress that will look familiar if you've seen early 80s werewolf classic the Howling.

The story centers on a girl who agrees to stay in a big scary isolated house, in which we assume something suspicious is going on. Eventually, the climax does arrive, with 15 minutes left in the movie. In that 15 minutes she does something odd while not choosing the more obviously action. And somehow she impossibly survives! Earlier, when she's nervous and scared, she does something else that makes no sense. The pizza delivery guy (who is actually one of the "bad" people) drops off a pizza. She open the door, grabs the pizza and closes the door immediately, not asking his help. In a parallel universe (a subject scientists are trying to prove with goofy examples) this could have made for a worthwhile path. While the idea of an innocent girl getting mixed up with the devil's followers is realistic enough, the place that Devil leads to is a construction area without a caution sign. [rating: $5] -Kenyon

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