Sunday, October 28, 2012

The House of the Devil (2009)

Warning: this review contains spoilers.

I must be really particular about Satanism, because instead of what this film does right - and it does a lot of things right - I find myself fixating on what it does wrong. The movie has a truly fantastic premise - a girl is lured to a creepy house in the woods on the pretenses of accepting a babysitting job, only to become the focus of a Satanic ritual during a lunar eclipse. The movie has a fantastic atmosphere, the girl is realistic and likable, and the creepy old man is characterized very intriguingly.

So what does it do wrong? Well, for starters, even though I appreciate the slow, building atmosphere, it gets pretty tedious after a while. There was a point before the climax hit that the girl was taking yet another round of the house, and as she began slowly walking up the stairs again, I thought to myself, where's the fast forward button? This movie is called The House of the Devil, so you better give me some devils fast, or else you should rather have titled the movie "Creepy House in the Woods".

For a movie that does a great job of creating a realistic atmosphere, some things stood out to me, like how the girl starts getting bizarrely paranoid all of a sudden - to the point of grabbing a knife to carry around the house with her. And the fact that she got drugged after a single bite of 'tainted' pizza - what was the point of showing her noticing the strange taste and rejecting the pizza if the drug has already taken effect anyway? And if I were a Satanist on the night of a lunar eclipse, my ritual depending on the drugging of an unsuspecting girl, I wouldn't put all my bets on a plan as convoluted as a pizza delivery - what if the girl didn't decide to eat pizza? What if she didn't even like pizza? (I know, I know, all college kids love pizza...)

As the movie wore on, I was starting to fear that there wasn't going to be a payoff. Thankfully, I was wrong about that. Still, the Satanic ritual that I had been waiting for all movie long left a lot to be desired. Firstly, I could understand putting some kind of ritual dress on the sacrifice. If I were a Satanist, I'd strip her nude, but I'll make an allowance for that. But panties? What the hell good is a Satanist if he's going to be modest? That's the great thing about devil-worshippers, that's what makes them so alluring, so much naughty fun - they're not tied down to ridiculous notions of chastity and purity.

And hell, what's the deal with an impregnation ritual not involving any sex? That's one thing Roman Polanski got right. I know that God impregnates virgins without conception, but this is the freaking devil, man! The horned god loves the ole lusty act. If I were a Satanist, I'd probably throw out all the violence and icky blood play anyway - because what's fun about that? But you can bet I'd leave all the kinky sex stuff in. I mean, even take the college dorm couple at the beginning of the movie - I won't fault the film for not showing them having sex, that's not really necessary to the plot, but even afterward, they were slumped together in bed, and they both had shirts on (everything else was under the covers). Really? This is freaking college for fuck's sake!

Anyway, the part when the friend is sitting in the car and the guy comes up with the lighter and - that was an excellent scene. A real "oh shit" moment. I loved that. But then in the end, I had a hard time believing the lead girl would actually shoot herself - boy, didn't take her long to start believing all that superstition. And yet, she had to survive, because, you know, that's the cliche, after all. I don't want to make it sound like this movie missed all the beats - because it really does a lot right, and it's really pretty creepy. I just, I guess I'm bored of people using the theme of Satanism - an excellent theme for a horror movie - and particularly the specific theme of Satanic ritual abuse, and just not doing the idea justice.

I mean, we've seen enough damsels in distress, subjected to the whims of Satan and his crazy followers. When the girl broke free (you would really make her restraints that easy to escape from?), I was thinking, here we go. Girl escapes and wins the day against those crazy Satanists. For once, can't we just have a movie that shows what the Satanists do, when things go according to plan, and what the ritual is supposed to be like? Can we see it from the Satanists' point of view? Can we see why it might be tempting? You know, instead of just this insane thing that people do because they're beholden to Satan. That's the Satanic ritual abuse movie I'd really like to see.

But until someone has the guts to make that movie, this one's not all that bad.

Disclaimer: I am not a Satanist. I don't even believe in Satan. :p

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