In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_mechanic_resurrection_ver2

Mechanic: Resurrection

Mechanic: Resurrection suffers from a storyline and script that strains credulity and insults intelligence even by the low bar set by the majority of contemporary…

Thumb_dont_breathe

Don't Breathe

Don’t Breathe gets a little less interesting as it proceeds to its inevitable conclusion, but it works so well up to that point that your…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives

Reviews

The House of the Devil

The House of the Devil Movie Review
  |  

Has there ever been a movie where a teenage baby-sitter enjoyed a pleasant evening? And a non-demonic child? Sam gets a break in "The House of the Devil." She discovers there isn't a baby at all. Only the aged mother of Mr. Ulman, a sinister man played by Tom Noonan, who is my choice to portray The Judge in Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, and if you have read that gruesome masterpiece, there is nothing more I need say about Mr. Ulman.



Sam (Jocelin Donahue) is a perky college student saving money for a deposit on her own apartment. She puts up signs around the campus asking for her baby-sitting services, and after she takes one of them, Mr. Ulman takes all of the rest...

Sam's friend Megan (Greta Gerwig) gives her a lift to the Ulman household, which they find way, way down at the end of a long, long road in the middle of a dark, dark forest. It looks like the House of the Seven Gables with three gables amputated. Mr. Ulman and his wife, Mrs. Ulman (Mary Woronov), greet Sam with hospitality laced with commiseration. The house is furnished in a way to remind you of aged maiden aunts who haven't changed a thing since their parents died.

Mother Ulman is upstairs in her room, Mr. Ulman explains. He only told Sam there was a baby because some baby-sitters balk at the difficulties of old folks. But not to worry. Mr. Ulman more or less promises she'll be no more problem than Norman Bates' mom. Then the Ulmans depart because they want to observe the full eclipse of the moon, and you can't even see the moon so deep in the dark, dark forest, you see.

Left alone on her own (Mother upstairs in her room and doesn't make a sound), Sam pokes around. It's sort of... creepy. Good thing she only snaps on the TV briefly; If the Addams Family came on, it might look familiar. And it might come on: This is the mid-1980s, when babysitters had more to fear from their employers than vice versa.

"The House of the Devil" has been made almost by hand by Ti West, who wrote, directed and edited the movie. He's an admirer of classic horror films and understands that if there's anything scarier than haunted house, it's a possibly haunted house. The film may provide an introduction for some audience members to the Hitchcockian definition of suspense: It's the anticipation, not the happening, that's the fun.

This is the kind of movie that looks lighted by the full of the moon, which is a good trick during an eclipse. Sam is relieved when Mr. and Mrs. Ulman return, until they don't seem prepared to give her the traditional ride home. She also meets Mother (Danielle Noe), who is considerably more spry than advertised. And there's the family -- handyman? -- named Victor (AJ Bowen). And Mother's room turns out to be far, far different than you might expect -- and dark, dark.



Popular Blog Posts

Hollywood Gave Up on You: The Summer Movies of 2016

A look back at how this summer's best offering, Netflix's "Stranger Things," makes the failure of this season's block...

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Dirty Politics May Ruin Distribution, Oscar Chances of Phenomenal "Aquarius"

Pablo Villaça reports on the sad status of Brazil's government and its possible effect on a phenomenal new film from ...

The Top 11 Female Film Characters of All Time

All month, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists has been counting down the top 55 female film characters of all tim...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus