Posted by Victoria Cirello @nightmaremaven
Hello, I’m Vicky Cirello and I am an aspiring journalist, horror movie reviewer, and videographer.
Victoria Cirello

Slow-burn horror films sometimes have the best pay off compared to the horror films that deliver scares from the get-go with no break. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching both types of horror film, depending on my mood, and I would probably pick the more exciting horror films more often, except when Ti West is involved. I’ve decided that Ti West is the king of the slow-burn.

In his film, “The House of the Devil” (2009), Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) takes on a – rather sketchy, if you ask me – babysitting job for a Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan). Samantha is just supposed to watch over the house and Mr. Ulman’s mother (Danielle Noe), but Samantha soon finds out the Ulman’s horrifying secret.

Ti West intentionally filmed “The House of the Devil” using 16mm film to give the movie a 70s splatter film look. Photo source: Blu-ray.com
Ti West intentionally filmed “The House of the Devil” using 16mm film to give the movie a 70s splatter film look. Photo source: Blu-ray.com

In case you’re not a fan of these types of horror films, “The House of the Devil” is a slow-burner. Way slower than West’s “The Innkeepers” (2011) – you can read my review of that film here, if you like.

Once again, West gives us ample time to get comfortable with the character Samantha before he lays on the scares. Through the slow build-up we are able to understand Samantha’s life and her financial situation and her desperation to make some extra money (leading her to take the sketchiest of jobs at the Ulman’s house). Even after Samantha finally makes it to her babysitting gig and the Ulman’s leave, there’s even more build-up where we see Samantha perform some pretty mundane activities. Samantha restlessly looks in all the rooms of the house, she attempts to watch TV, she tries to study, and eventually she orders a pizza – all normal babysitter activities.

When Samantha’s snooping leads her to a closet full of coats and photos of a family (not the Ulmans), she decides to investigate further. When she goes up to investigate the attic, the lights suddenly flicker out and Samantha sees a hand open the attic door, causing her to pass out.

Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) should have just stayed downstairs and watched TV. Photo source: The Creative Fox Den
Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) should have just stayed downstairs and watched TV. Photo source: The Creative Fox Den

I’ll spare the spoilers for this one, as I believe everyone should go watch “The House of the Devil” themselves. I will say the build-up—at least for me, anyway – all becomes worth it when Samantha awakens after passing out. West doesn’t hold anything back at this point in the film, and he takes the audience for a rollercoaster ride until the end.

The conclusion to the film had a “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968) feel to it, in more ways than one. West’s “The House of the Devil” was based, in part, on a phenomena called the Satanic Panic where people were – as the name would suggest – frightened of Satanic cults. The “Panic” caused a lot of fear and accusations against those who were believed to practice Satanic rituals. West’s film certainly embodies this panic as Samantha puts her trust in the Ulmans only to find out their terrible secret.

Here’s a hint. Guess what the Ulmans are hiding. Gif from Giphy
Here’s a hint. Guess what the Ulmans are hiding. Gif from Giphy

Overall, “The House of the Devil” is another great example of a slow-burn horror flick done well. I highly recommend giving this one a watch, but maybe not alone!