House of the Devil (2009)
Directed by Ti West

Starring Greta Gerwig Jocelin Donahue Tom Noonan

I'm a big fan of modern day horror films that evoke the spirit of the '70s stuff. Back when Rob Zombie made good stuff, he was basically providing us a brutal taste of what fans got at grindhouse cinemas in the '70s. Some of the best direct-to-DVD titles evoke the '70s as well, including this year's decent "Plague Town."

But many of us forget that the '70s delivered its share of boring horror films as well -- movies where not a whole hell of a lot happened. And 2009's "House of the Devil" seems to evoke that vibe from the decade. Think "Axe" or "Prophecy."

With such positive numbers on RottenTomatoes, "House of the Devil" does suffer from high expectations. The film was adored on the festival circuit. It does have atmosphere. But I found it a bit of an overly serious bore -- and somewhat similar to "Babysitter Wanted," a modern bad movie that I actually enjoyed more.

The film a lot like "Babysitter Wanted," with a college sophomore desperately seeking work as a babysitter. She attempts to get a gig via a suspicious looking flyer, only to be "stood up" by her creepy employer -- whose voice she only heard on the phone -- when he fails to show up to meet her at the student union. Eventually, however, she lands the gig after learning the previous candidate didn't work out.

But the job comes with a few catches.

1) Her employer (Tom Noonan, of "Robocop 2" and "Wolfen") is indeed really pretty creepy.

2) She's going to be in a secluded country home.

3) And, oh yeah. They only said the job was for a "babysitter." It's really more for a house-sitter to look after a senior citizen who stays put in a room. When our sophomore and her roommate put up a protest, the employer agrees to pony up more bread.

What lies ahead for our attractive protagonist (Jocelin Donahue) is a long night in the "House of the Devil." Initially, it looked like the film was going to be a classic as we entered the second act of the story and we realized the kind of menace that lay ahead for our protagonist. But the film didn't wok for me as it dragged on into its second act. The pic was overly serious and just not that scary, despite what all the other critics are saying. Basically a mood film that features a babysitter alone in a dark and scary house, it seemed more suitable for an episode of Masters of Horror than a 90 minute movie.

As I mentioned earlier, the film enjoyed an enthusiastic response on the festival circuit and a 90 percent plus rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Everyone seems to like this movie -- except me. So take this review with a grain of salt.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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