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.
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.
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.
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!