Thursday, 18 March 2010

Devil in the detail

The best horror film I’ve seen in ages is Ti West’s fantastic 'House of the Devil', which is, despite being set in 1983, an almost forensically precise recreation of 1970s made for television horror.

The brilliantly basic set-up – broke student foolishly accepts babysitting job from creepy couple, in creepy old house, following through with the deal even when the couple admit lying to her about the assignment; it’s to look after an old lady who 'never leaves the house' – is pure ABC TV movie hokum. There’s even more than a touch of Bob Clark's 'Black Christmas' in there, minus the seasonal trimmings naturally. But it’s the sheer confidence, attention to the minutiae of the period and deadly earnestness of West’s approach that pays off big time. The first hour is a master class in slow-build suspense, and straddles the dread/tedium divide perfectly. From the opening title/company logo on freeze-frame credits through to the robes n’ candles aesthetic of the splattery dénouement, West keeps things deadly serious and seriously period throughout to great effect. This brings me to the three other reasons I love this film.

Jocelin Donahue, channelling pure Jessica Harper/Suzy Banyon vibes as lead girl Samantha is amazing, and beautiful, and just looks/acts so right in the role.

West’s music - and music cues throughout - is impeccable, spot on and none more so than in this scene, when he has heroine Samantha bop around to the Fixx’s ‘One thing leads to another' on a massive walkman, the accidental shattering of the vase heralding doom. It’s a great horror moment.

The other is this. Best promotional tool ever?

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