I first saw Jocelin Donahue in Insidious Chapter 2, and even though she had a smaller role she left a great impression portraying the younger version of Barbara Hershey’s character Lorraine Lambert. Her ability to carry fear and worry was so convincing. So when I heard she was the lead in 2009 horror The House of The Devil I had to check it out. Ti West’s slow burn demonic horror is an incredible throwback to 70’s horror with a tour de force performance from Jocelin Donahue, one of the best female leads in the genre for years.
College student Sam takes a babysitting job for a family out of town. Despite creepy hosts, the money gets her through the night but as the hours go by and the moon rises, Sam realises there are much sinister forces at work inside the house. When I watch horror movies, I don’t normally go looking for brain engaging stories, I am here to be scared and on edge, have twists take me by surprise. Don’t get me wrong, recent horrors like The Babadook and Oculus featured strong narratives and emotion and I enjoyed that, but it all comes down to the scare factor.
The House Of The Devil has a decent narrative, enough to keep you interested in the characters and the build up, but it’s thinly written. However, when you’ve got Jocelin Donahue in the lead role the thin story becomes a minuscule thing as her performance is magnificent. Take the sequence where she puts on her Walkman and dances around the house freely, frame by frame she lets herself go and moves like a mad cat and it’s hilarious to watch, her innocent character completely oblivious to what’s coming. Donahue is so damn good, I love how she embodies the role of the horror movie scream queens seen in old 70’s and 80’s flicks like Black Christmas, Halloween and Scream. Except Donahue is one to remember, a memorable performance that boasts wide eyed terror, intrigue and a consistent need to keep rooting for her survival.
Ti West does a fine job with the pacing and build up which I’ve mentioned a few times. This is a slow film, but never is it dull. Every now and then West drops a bombshell, a moment of shock that comes out of nowhere and leaves an impact. I will let a few spoilers slip here so you’ve been warned. When Megan, Sam’s college friend, played by a very funny and witty Greta Gerwig, encounters a stranger looking for a cigarette she ends up very dead after taking a bullet to the head. Curveballs are thrown and blimey it’s shocking. The dialogue between characters feels natural and at times can stir tension and threat, especially when Sam demands a higher pay from the creepy family, it felt at any time they’d snap.
With a blood splattered finale that cranks up the intensity and ends with a shocking twist, I highly recommend this film. Again, I highly praise Jocelin Donahue’s amazing performance and Ti West’s throwback to the good old days of horror. The House of The Devil has everything for horror fans from gore to demonic themes and haunted houses.